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May 19, 2012 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Dan Harmon out as showrunner of Community. He responds
posted by whitneyarner (275 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
TROY AND ABED GETTING ANGRY!

You know how to sing it.
posted by Fizz at 7:16 AM on May 19, 2012 [46 favorites]


Goddammit fuck.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:18 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


God damn it.
posted by brundlefly at 7:19 AM on May 19, 2012


Evil Abed is afoot.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:19 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


.
posted by ndfine at 7:19 AM on May 19, 2012


Good. Community just didn't have that certain Two and a Half Men feel to it.

Also, fuck.
posted by bondcliff at 7:22 AM on May 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is sad, but, hopefully he'll find a show on a nice cable channel to love him and cherish him. Network tv is that crazy college ex that wont stop stabbing you with a pen after and during the wild sex.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:24 AM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Yeah... about the 'Abid' guy, we love him think he's great, but we feel like he needs to be more relate-able, more urkel wierd and less the creepy guys at best buy who fix my laptop weird."

Okay, that's probably not what's happening right now, but it's what I imagine is happening.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:25 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Chevy Chase is more powerful than we thought.
posted by Gator at 7:25 AM on May 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


Welcome to the darkest timeline. Community renewed and destroyed simultaneously.
posted by Hobo at 7:27 AM on May 19, 2012 [120 favorites]


I've never watched the show, but I would guess they're only keeping the show going so it qualifies for syndication, and they're jettisoning budget.
posted by Trochanter at 7:27 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was just talking to friends who love the show yet are curiously optimistic about new showrunners coming in. And I don't think Community without Harmon will be a bad show, necessarily. But, while Harmon is not perfect, I can't imagine it will be a better show without him. His fingerprints are all over every frame of this show, and without him I can't imagine it will ever reach the dizzying heights of lunacy it accomplishes in its best moments.

Then again, showrunners come and go all the time and it's not always for the worst. Remember how great Buffy was after Marti Noxon took... oh... fuck.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:29 AM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


If they get someone who will read notes like "could we have the real Abed back and not this doppleganger who screams at the thought of DST?" that'll at least be something.
posted by fightorflight at 7:31 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fizz: "TROY AND ABED GETTING ANGRY! "


Did you mean "TROY AND ABED ARE IN MOUUUUUURNIIIIIIING"?
posted by subbes at 7:33 AM on May 19, 2012 [72 favorites]


Whatever your views on Dan Harmon, he's been very open and public about Community being the creative achievement he's most proud of. He clearly loves the characters deeply and seems genuinely appreciative of the emotional resonance the show has found with people. I imagine it would have been an awful blow to him to see the show canceled, but surely that would have been nothing compared to the gutpunch that this must be, seeing his baby ripped from his arms and handed off unceremoniously to someone else. Doing that to an auteur takes a special, industrial grade kind of corporate sociopathy, so hats off to Sony Pictures!
posted by superfluousm at 7:36 AM on May 19, 2012 [24 favorites]


I guess Jeff and Annie will be sleeping together after all.
posted by dortmunder at 7:37 AM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]



I've long held that Sony is what happens when combine the worst of Microsoft and Apple.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:38 AM on May 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


I guess Jeff and Annie will be sleeping together after all.

Annie's pretty young. We try not to sexualize her.
posted by Hobo at 7:40 AM on May 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


It is not impossible that the new team will salvage and retain the things that make Community exciting to watch -- the mash-up of misanthropy and sentimentality that keeps the characters from growing dull, the brainy jokes, the risky veering into wildly divergent genre parodies on an episode by episode basis. And it is not impossible that they will simultaneously patch up the things that keep a wider audience from attaching to the show -- the occasionally slapdash and rickety feel, the heavily telegraphed disdain Chase has for the material, the head-up-its-own-bottom recursive navel gazing of about a third of the plots.

Not impossible. Just very, very unlikely.

If anyone reading this thread hasn't watched and is curious to see what the fuss is about, may I recommend starting with the second season? The kinks are worked out at that point and every episode is wonderful.
posted by damehex at 7:40 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The first season Halloween episode is sublime. Start with that.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:44 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Television showrunning is part writing and part management. Dan Harmon is a fantastic writer, and I'll just leave it at that.
posted by incessant at 7:48 AM on May 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah Season 1 Halloween is when the show decides to be an ensemble instead of a Will-They-Won't-They with supporting cast. It's the turning point.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:48 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


#DumbDumbDumb
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:48 AM on May 19, 2012


Writer of "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design" & "Remedial Chaos Theory" Chris McKenna also announced he was leaving the show last night.
posted by the_artificer at 7:51 AM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


To me, Community represents how television can be a medium for the kind of art that shows true humanity through the often nightmarish realities of the world.

As David Foster Wallace said:
[D]o we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.
Community hits that level of the sublime that only really good fiction can.
posted by ndfine at 7:52 AM on May 19, 2012 [27 favorites]


This, combined with the show being put in the kiss-of-death Friday night slot makes me almost wish they had just put it out of its misery rather than go for the prolonged, slow, painful death route.
posted by The Gooch at 7:56 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got sidetracked by the term "showrunner"... ??.... then I looked it up, it meant what I suspected... I came back and still got sidetracked by that term..

Who the hell thought of that??? Homestar Runner, Blade Runner, Barricade Runner, Front Runner, I get all those, but, would we say: camerarunner, microphonerunner, budgetrunner, specialeffectsrunner, makeuprunner ???

I suspect he manipulated his way out of the job just because of the stupid title!
posted by HuronBob at 7:58 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never watched the show, but I would guess they're only keeping the show going so it qualifies for syndication, and they're jettisoning budget.

I thought Comedy Central already picked it up for syndication in 2013 before it was renewed for a 4th season? Course who knows what these dates mean, they could be just press dates and not decision dates.

I remain hopeful for next year... but seeing as the new season is only 13 episodes and will be on at 8:30 on Fridays, what I imagine must be the worst time slot on network tv, it's really not much of a renewal.
posted by Sayuri. at 7:58 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some reaction pieces with additional background:

Josef Adalian
Daniel Fienberg
Alan Sepinwall

The recent 8-bit video game episode was so perfect that I was gasping for air from laughing. This show gets me in ways that few other shows can, and I fear for what season 4 will be like. I'm not necessarily all doom and gloom: the characters will basically be all there, but wrapped up in a neater package with less crazy shenanigans. I will certainly watch, no matter what. But I'm probably never get another 8-bit episode.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:59 AM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


would we say: camerarunner, microphonerunner, budgetrunner, specialeffectsrunner, makeuprunner ???

He runs the show - it's a decent all inclusive term because "producer" and "writer" and "director" can all be too specific. But "Blade Runner" would have been a nice option.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:00 AM on May 19, 2012


It's also more synonymous with "auteur" in the case of TV - consider Lynch and Twin Peaks, Milch and Deadwood, etc.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:01 AM on May 19, 2012


And yes the 8-bit episode was perfection bottled, shaken up, poured over ice, and served with a sprig of mint.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:02 AM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


This, combined with the show being put in the kiss-of-death Friday night slot makes me almost wish they had just put it out of its misery rather than go for the prolonged, slow, painful death route.

Yep. Although hopefully the actors make it a look-forwarded-to goodbye instead of an agonizing decline. I suppose like the extended LotR, I'll take any material they want to throw my way, and THEN I will judge, instead of beforehand. I think a part of that lack of emotional investment in next season is due to feeling pretty complete after this season. It's not about will they or won't they, and I don't need to know everything.
posted by Sayuri. at 8:04 AM on May 19, 2012


It was a 16-bit episode!!! okay, okay, I'm fine, I'm fine....
posted by whitneyarner at 8:06 AM on May 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


Re: "Showrunner." The credited title is "Executive Producer," but that's a title potentially shared by multiple people, and so can be ambiguous (Producer credits in TV mean all kinds of different things, but they are mostly writers.) The Showrunner is the person at the epicenter of the creative activity of the series, and generally comes out of writing. They are the showrunner because they run the show - it's like a ring master. They could be show master, I suppose.
posted by MythMaker at 8:08 AM on May 19, 2012


Now what I'm interested in seeing is if any of the cast see the writing that's on the wall and say "fuck this shit" and get while the gettings good.

I'm looking at you Donald Glover.
posted by ShawnString at 8:09 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everything ends, one way or another. I've only recently discovered the show and I'm grateful I have at least three seasons of amazing stories to catch up on.

As long as the show doesn't end like Battlestar Galatica did, everything will be alright.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really didn't care for the 8-bit episode (except for Abed falling in love - that was perfect) but I love that the show would do that. It's just the kind of ambitious "it's so crazy it just might work!" spirit that makes Community always entertaining, and sometimes brilliant.

I keep thinking about what happened to West Wing and Gilmore Girls after their visionary showrunners left - the bones were still there, and they were still entertaining, but they didn't have that breathless sense of watching an artist's vision perfectly realized on the screen anymore.

And I dont mean that the shows were perfect before their visionaries left (Sorkin was awful at writing women, Amy Sherman Palladino clearly did not care about anything being realistic), but that when you watched those shows, you felt like you were peering into the brains of these writers, and seeing the world as they saw it. That's how it feels to watch Community, and why it is such a loss to have Dan Harmon off the show.

In other words: fuck.
posted by lunasol at 8:11 AM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Dan Harmon out as showrunner of Community."

I know what those words* mean, but that sentence makes no sense. If there's no Dan Harmon, whatever it is won't be Community.

* except "showrunner" which is what, like the president of the show? Creator? Director? Producer? I've never seen a showrunner credit.
posted by Eideteker at 8:17 AM on May 19, 2012


* except "showrunner" which is what, like the president of the show? Creator? Director? Producer? I've never seen a showrunner credit.

Think of it like the editor-in-chief of the show.
posted by lunasol at 8:20 AM on May 19, 2012


Or maybe, in films, if you had a really invested, hands-on producer. Like George Lucas with the first Indiana Jones movies.
posted by Trochanter at 8:23 AM on May 19, 2012


I sympathize with how shitty it must have been to find out second-hand that you've been kicked off of your own show, and my heart goes out to Harmon -- Community is obviously his baby and this is going to be a rough few months for him, I'm sure.

But I wasn't really surprised that Sony decided to play things this way. Harmon has repeatedly used Tumblr and Twitter to give seemingly unfiltered insider commentary on behind-the-scenes aspect of the show, and while I personally loved getting those glimpses into the down-and-dirty details of making TV, it doesn't exactly paint him as a man with much discretion. If I were Sony, I wouldn't have wanted to talk to him directly, either, as I would have to work under the assumption that anything I said would probably be described and commented on by Harmon himself immediately afterward. Better to give him as little material as possible for the inevitable blog post.

I've sat down and had lunches with friends who're TV show runners or head writers or producers, and listened to them describe tensions with the network, with the staff, or with each other. In some cases, having that knowledge made it much easier to understand various things going on in the front-facing parts of the production -- the show itself and the publicity surrounding it. But none of those people ever talked in public -- or frankly, in text -- about any of those professional tensions. Sometimes they left their shows due to creative differences, sometimes they rode out the rough waters, sometimes they weren't tapped for future, related projects, but they were never treated in the manner Harmon describes.

Personally, I prefer transparency, and I applaud Harmon for his frankness and his honesty. But he has to have known that there might be consequences for the dual sins of being difficult to work with and talking openly about those difficulties in public while the show was still in production.

But then, all we're seeing is filtered bits and pieces of the whole story! So ultimately, Sony's reasons for doing anything will probably remain opaque and unfathomable.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:24 AM on May 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think I'm going to request that I have all of my titles modified to this newspeak format. I shall be henceforth referred to as jph, the:

- singsonger!
- docanalyzer!
- stuffresearcher!
- wordwriter!
- dogmonsterwalker!
- nomcooker!
posted by jph at 8:26 AM on May 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


I loved every episode. Jesus I wish the executives had more publicity for lousy decisions they made so I can direct my vitriol at them.
posted by discopolo at 8:27 AM on May 19, 2012


As David Foster Wallace said:

I like Community too, but you can't deny that it's in every respect part of the winking, post-everything, about-itself television turn that DFW explicitly identifies as the thing that literature has to stand against.
posted by escabeche at 8:29 AM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


this newspeak format [...] stuffresearcher [...] wordwriter

You mean like those famous Orwellianisms "playwright," "blacksmith," or "shepherd"?

Man, people's linguistic intuitions are weird sometimes.
posted by RogerB at 8:31 AM on May 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


Jesus I wish the executives had more publicity for lousy decisions they made so I can direct my vitriol at them.

Totally. Although, three writers stepping down so far probably communicates my feelings towards the network more effectively than I could.
posted by Lorin at 8:32 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh the new guys did Aliens in America, which I loved, but was cancelled after a handful of episodes. The show didn't have the same tone and I dunno anything about Happy Endings.

I wonder if all the actors are forced just to smile and take it, while feeling shitty on the inside. I remember when my supervisor left out of the blue, well, I felt sensitive about it. Glad Harmon left a note.
posted by discopolo at 8:33 AM on May 19, 2012


Are my….periods giving this enough….pointedness?

Dan, I love you, but they're called ellipses, and when you use 4 of them it means you are ending a sentence.

That being said, this is awful. It's clear that Harmon was a key force behind the madcap humor that drives Community. I know the show gets criticized for being to self-referential and for riffing on tropes, but that kind of multi-layered meta-humor is precisely why I love the show. Replacing Dan Harmon with a pair of Sony-Approved guys seems like it will take the media critical teeth out of the show. I can hardly imagine they'll take the stylistic and narrative chances he has.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:34 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's a glossary of TV screenwriting terms for those confused by showrunner.
posted by the_artificer at 8:36 AM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I like Community too, but you can't deny that it's in every respect part of the winking, post-everything, about-itself television turn that DFW explicitly identifies as the thing that literature has to stand against.

Maybe you didn't read Infinite Jest?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:36 AM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


But I'm probably never get another 8-bit episode.

Honestly what really worries me is what will happen when they do try to do another Wacky Theme Episode. It'll be like all that stuff in the second season of Twin Peaks where they were like 'This stuff in Lynchian, right? It's weird, therefore yes!'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:37 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Happy Endings is a surprisingly great sitcom (with a silly title) and, good lord, people, being a showrunner is totally a thing, even if you weren't consulted about the name.
posted by purpleclover at 8:39 AM on May 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


As long as the show doesn't end like Battlestar Galatica did, everything will be alright.

The beauty of Community is that it can end *exactly* like BSG, and it would be alright.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:40 AM on May 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


Now what I'm interested in seeing is if any of the cast see the writing that's on the wall and say "fuck this shit" and get while the gettings good.

I think I'll just settle in for the decline because I need to know my relationship with watching the show is bad enough to leave.
posted by discopolo at 8:40 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If people are that offended by "showrunner," what other word would you use for a person who doesn't personally write every episode (or doesn't have to, at least) but oversees the creative direction of the show, exercises editorial authority, directs the directors (as it were) and does more traditional producer work?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:41 AM on May 19, 2012


Maybe you didn't read Infinite Jest?

I did, and if there's any respect in which it resembles Community, I sure missed it. But there are enough DFW threads on MetaFilter and I won't persist in making this another one!
posted by escabeche at 8:41 AM on May 19, 2012


This is bittersweet. Another thing Sony ruins. Worst company ever.
CruelCruelCruel.
posted by stratastar at 8:42 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Network makes changes in show that had consistently declining ratings; news at 11.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:42 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish I could sign a contract for a job where I got paid to not show up. I thought only the mob did that.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:42 AM on May 19, 2012


I feel like the easiest way to illustrate the effect and importance of the role is this list of Simpsons show runners.
posted by Lorin at 8:43 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


More collateral damage: Karen Gillan admitted recently to loving the show and wanting to guest star in an Inspector Spacetime bit on Community. Neil Gaiman then offered to write the bit for free.

Offer rescinded.
posted by greenland at 8:43 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've been saying from the start that Community is the 21st century comedic version of Twin Peaks. The ousting of Dan Harmon clinches it.

And yes, Community sans Harmon will be like Twin Peaks sans Lynch.

Heartbreaking.
posted by brina at 8:46 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


hey guys remember how good the 5th season of The West Wing was after Sorkin left?
posted by ninjew at 8:50 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


For a network whose highest rated show is the rotting husk of what was formerly The Office, such a move makes perfect sense.
posted by Ardiril at 8:52 AM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I heard the fourth season was going to be on Friday night, so they're looking for this show to die off anyhow.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:55 AM on May 19, 2012


I'm not actually bothered by the term showrunner - now that I actually know what the hell it is. My initial reaction was "wait... so we care about that guy who goes and gets coffee for everyone and delivers scripts and costumes and stuff?" Cause that's what a runner is to me: a courier; a sprinter/jogger. Not an "operator" or "director" or "producer."

I feel like they just sort of wandered backwards into this compound word. "Hey, who is that guy who keeps yelling at everyone?" "That's Bob. He's an Executive Producer." "But... you're an Executive Producer and you don't get to tell anyone what to do..." "Yeah. I know. But, he runs the show. He's... uh.... you know... the... show.... runner... Yeah. The showrunner."

I'm feeling like Executive Producer pretty much covers it. And is in use. But has maybe become too diluted to actually be a useful term anymore? And okay, so if you don't want to use executive producer, why not go with the modern business equivalent: Chief Operating Officer. I fear that might be a little too much like admitting that entertainment is about money and not about art...
posted by jph at 8:56 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think of all the things I'm apprehensive about, I'm most worried about someone else taking over writing for the Dean. Take the Dean's obsession with Jeff - it seems to be on the part of the Dean equal parts desire to be best friends with, be in love with, and BE Jeff. It's a broad bit, obviously, but a terrifically funny one, and while I trust Jim Rash to continue turning in a perfectly deranged performance I'm not sure he can save it if the writing turns this bizarre psychosexual tightrope act into "HURR DURR GAY STUFF"
posted by superfluousm at 8:58 AM on May 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


The Nerdist Writers Panel with Dan Harmon is well worth a listen if you're interested in the nuts and bolts of TV writing.
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on May 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Most days I love metafilter.

But on days we get umpteen posts about the word showrunner, not so much.
posted by Bonzai at 8:59 AM on May 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


To me, Community represents how television can be a medium for the kind of art that shows true humanity through the often nightmarish realities of the world.

Everyone go watch Community's British ancestor, Spaced (especially the rave episode Season 1 Episode 6). That is all.
posted by Bwithh at 8:59 AM on May 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


what other word would you use

Sultan.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:00 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Nerdist Writers Panel with Dan Harmon is well worth a listen if you're interested in the nuts and bolts of TV writing.

Oh, and it turns out TV writers talk about "breaking" the story a lot: Be warned - this does not mean taking a rest break! Or ruining it! It's special show jargon I guess, if your brain will go into a jumble at that possibly you hsould not listen . Possibly if we can find out what it means we can come up with a better term, inform everyone who works in TV, and have them use that instead.
posted by Artw at 9:02 AM on May 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


I heard the fourth season was going to be on Friday night, so they're looking for this show to die off anyhow.

This. The fourth season order was only 13 episodes and they moved it to a death slot, so they were killing it anyway. I thought "Well, it stayed on longer than I expected, and at least it's got a season of notice so it can wrap up properly. That's pretty a good run of luck, really." Then this happens. Given that they're killing the thing anyway, couldn't they have just let Harmon finish it?

Also, I really do have to wonder how much of this is Chase's doing. He's got a reputation for being a vindictive asshole, and he made no secret of not really liking the show and really not liking Harmon. Maybe he went to the network and made some noise, and they figured that because he was the most "famous" member of the cast he couldn't possibly be the most expendable. I don't know, that's just spitballing. Really, I just want to know exactly where to direct my anger.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:03 AM on May 19, 2012


Sorry to disappoint you, Bonzai, but I came in solely to ask "WTF is a showrunner?" and was pleased to see I wasn't the only one.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:05 AM on May 19, 2012


30 Rock also on it's way out.
posted by Artw at 9:06 AM on May 19, 2012


YES BUT NO ONE KICKED TINA FEY TO THE CURB SO MY TEARS ARE NOT FOR THEM
posted by superfluousm at 9:07 AM on May 19, 2012


Showrunner.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:10 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Network makes changes in show that had consistently declining ratings; news at 11.

The ratings that are left are coalescing around one of the most cult-like fanbases since Firefly. If you remove what's left because you piss off the people who would take a bullet for most of the cast and writers you're going to have zero.

Of course it's not Nielsen Family friendly so everyone likes to shit on it about ratings. Meanwhile, Hulu tries to tell Sony/NBC that so many people watch the god damn show and don't cancel it.

I wish I had the capital to start a cable channel. It would flip syndication on its head. Buy part equity in critically acclaimed shows that have mediocre ratings and are struggling to get renewed by financing ~20% or so of the costs. Take the first run of it the day before network TV and charge $10/month for the cable channel, live streaming of the channel (no cable sub required) and complete on demand video of the running serieses and syndicated high quality scripted drama and comedy to fill in the gaps in programming.

Basically HBO combined with Hulu for network TV.
posted by Talez at 9:11 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish there was a way for fans to pay directly to the show to keep it running. If there was a 'donate' button for Community, I bet its fans would be much more likely to donate than viewers of most other shows. It seems like the only way to support a particular show is to be a Nielsen household.

If Community goes off air I'll most likely stop watching TV altogether..
posted by rainy at 9:13 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


this bizarre psychosexual tightrope act into "HURR DURR GAY STUFF"
I think it's already gone there though, to a small degree... I do get annoyed at this sometimes.

It'll be like all that stuff in the second season of Twin Peaks where they were like 'This stuff in Lynchian, right? It's weird, therefore yes!'

Oh god, NO! Now I'm miserable...

I need Community to continue intact so I can show all my oblivious friends that No! Big Bang Theory is NOT the best show for geeks on tv!
posted by Sayuri. at 9:13 AM on May 19, 2012


You know, I realize the 'message' the Friday night slot sends. All the same, I almost never actually watched Community when it airs on Thursdays. Friday, after the kids are in bed, or Saturday before SNL is way more likely. My bigger point is that time-slots matter less with cult shows (if the network is willing to maintain the cult).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 9:13 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that "showrunner" wasn't a universally-recognized term! I clearly have to stop underestimating how far my head is up the ass of the entertainment industry.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:14 AM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I keep reading a phrase in these articles about getting a show "into syndication." What does that mean? And what does it take to get there?
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2012


Most days I love metafilter.

But on days we get umpteen posts about the word showrunner, not so much.


Thank you! Can we please return to talking about the damn show now.
posted by Sayuri. at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


.

Community is about to become season two of Boomtown.
posted by jbickers at 9:16 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The post read a lot differently when I thought it said shadowrunner.
posted by Scattercat at 9:16 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Big Bang Theory is NOT the best show for geeks on tv!"

It sucks, too.
posted by Ardiril at 9:18 AM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Chevy Chase made this happen. I will boycott his botox'ed ass for as long as he's alive.

You are not Bill Murray. Get used to it.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. You were the ironic foil to everyone else. You weren't funny because you weren't meant to be most of the time. You should've owned it. Instead you went prima donna.

Fuck you, Chevy. The levy is dry - and has been for quite a while.

No need to get petty about it. You're fucking rich.
posted by flippant at 9:18 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The post read a lot differently when I thought it said shadowrunner.

Future Gaiman/Harmon project! *crossing fingers*
posted by Sayuri. at 9:19 AM on May 19, 2012


OKAY, LET'S ALL PRETEND I SAID 'PRODUCER, WRITER, AND DIRECTOR' AND MOVE ON
posted by whitneyarner at 9:20 AM on May 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


I don't think Community is that amazing, but this is fucked up. I hope Harmon winds up somewhere he's treated with much more respect.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2012


I keep reading a phrase in these articles about getting a show "into syndication." What does that mean? And what does it take to get there?

You've probably seen that Comedy Central shows reruns of 30 Rock now, right? Or that Nick at Nite shows reruns of That '70s Show? That's what syndication is. The show gets rebroadcast on other networks and their affiliates and the people who own the rights to the show get some cash, which is why they push for it. As for what it takes to get there, usually it's just a long enough run that the show can be shown five-days-a-week style without getting repeats too quickly (traditionally the threshold is around 100 episodes, but that's far from a hard rule).
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2012


If you're interested in a detailed description of what syndication means, the wikipedia article is actually pretty thorough. The most relevant bits are:
In broadcasting, syndication is the sale of the right to broadcast radio shows and television shows by multiple radio stations and television stations [...] Off-network syndication involves the sale of a program that was originally run on network television or in some cases first run syndication: a rerun [...]

It is commonly said in the U.S. industry that "syndication is where the real money is" when producing a TV show. In other words, while the initial run of any particular television series may theoretically lose money for its producing studio, the ensuing syndication will generate enough profit to balance out any losses.

Off-network syndication occurs when a network television show is syndicated in packages containing some or all episodes, and sold to as many television stations and markets as possible. In this manner, sitcoms are preferred and more successful because they are non-Serial, and can be run non-sequentially, which is more beneficial and less costly for the network. In the United States, local stations now rarely broadcast reruns of primetime dramas; instead, they usually air on basic cable channels, which may air each episode 30 to 60 times.

Syndication has been known to spur the popularity of a series that only experienced moderate success during its original network run. The most notable example of this is Star Trek, which ran for three seasons on NBC from 1966 to 1969, but became a worldwide cult phenomenon after it entered off-network syndication. Its success in syndication led to the Star Trek film series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and several other series. Another example is The Brady Bunch.
So basically, syndication is why it seems like you can always watch Law And Order and Seinfeld at any time of day or night. It's also how I was able to catch up on the first five seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was twelve.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll miss Harmon's influence, but I'd also like to see where this goes. Dan wasn't the only good writer in the board room; unless I missed something, Megan Ganz is staying on board, and she's the writer who gets credited with many of the best episodes. Harmon's last was the one with Britta's braindamaged ex, which was one of the weakest episodes of the second half.

shakespeherian, I disagree entirely that this is a Twin Peaks Redux scenario. The genre-bending that makes Community so interesting to watch is by no means a Dan Harmon Thing; looking back, he's only credited for one of the Genre Episodes, Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas, which he cowrote with Dino Stamatopoulos (and considering Dino wrote Moral Orel, which had a heck of a lot in common with AUC, that's not a huge writing shock). Harmon's thing is the profane and grotesque sense of humor, and the Joseph Campbell dramatic arc obsession – which frankly I won't miss. It's so clumsy and heavy-handed that it hurt a ton of episodes, both this season and last. It might be nice to have his influence on the humor gone, too; the Chang-as-Ruler seemed completely Harmonesque, and fell flat on its face every episode it was used.

Community was not an auteur production. It was the result of a fantastic cast and an equally fantastic writing staff. Twin Peaks relied heavily on David Lynch and Mark Frost (and as I've been rewatching it, I think that Frost was missed more than Lynch, who got all the best episodes but wasn't responsible for the plot that kept the first season so grounded). Community relies on nobody. It's the product of a fantastic all-round team. Looking at the episode list, I can't actually pinpoint any one writer, not even Ganz, who did the work I liked best. It seems like pretty much everybody has written gold. (Curiously, Emily Cutler wrote both two of my favorite and two of my least favorite episodes.)

Harmon is a fascinating person, and he's a damn smart writer, but he's got a bunch of weaknesses. I'd like if he stayed, but I never credited him for all of Community's success. His team is incredible. The last two seasons were fun as hell, but also weirdly unsteady; it would be nice to see if the rest of the team might finally find a balance with their showrunner gone. And maybe somebody will use Chevy Chase for something. I loved him in season one, thought he had some great moments in season two, but he was misused in the season two arc and he got practically nothing this season at all.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Also, when the fuck is somebody gonna let Edgar Wright direct an episode.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:24 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


At least they didn't try to replace Dan Harmon with a doppelganger. There's that, I guess.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:28 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy crap how do people who clearly love tv a lot not know the term "showrunner" or what it means?

Is this something I would need to not have a television to understand?
posted by tzikeh at 9:29 AM on May 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


I wonder if he'll come back to record commentaries...
posted by the_artificer at 9:30 AM on May 19, 2012


At least they didn't try to replace Dan Harmon with a doppelganger. There's that, I guess.

Like... A doppeldanner?
posted by Talez at 9:30 AM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


>>>Also, I really do have to wonder how much of this is Chase's doing.


>>>Chevy Chase made this happen. I will boycott his botox'ed ass for as long as he's alive.

You are not Bill Murray. Get used to it.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. You were the ironic foil to everyone else. You weren't funny because you weren't meant to be most of the time. You should've owned it. Instead you went prima donna.

Fuck you, Chevy. The levy is dry - and has been for quite a while.

No need to get petty about it. You're fucking rich.


From the Dan Fienberg article linked earlier in the thread:
Silly people will suggest it was related to the rather insignificant little kerfuffle with Chevy Chase that got some gossipy traction this spring, but that's ridiculous. There are many reasons why this could be interpreted to make practical sense for NBC and Sony, but placating the star of "Snow Day" is so far down the list that you'd nod off and fall asleep before getting to it. So let's say this and move on: NBC didn't choose Chevy Chase over Dan Harmon. Period. Full-stop.
posted by The Gooch at 9:30 AM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Rory Marinich: "unless I missed something, Megan Ganz is staying on board"

I dunno, she made a pretty cryptic tweet...
posted by subbes at 9:32 AM on May 19, 2012


I never got into Firefly, I don't really care for Joss Whedon, so I'd always get annoyed when every time a discussion about television, or dvd's, or properties being resurrected, or old things being brought back, someone ALWAYS had to say "bring back Firefly!" I'd get annoyed, because clearly the show is gone, it's not coming back, the fan outrage got you guys a major motion picture for fun's sake, like jeez, move on already, it's just a show.

...
I'm trying to be optimistic about the future of Community, but for now, in advance, I say, I truly apologize, Browncoats, I think I finally understand your plight. Seriously.

.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:32 AM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I saw Conan O'Brien and David Letterman talking a couple of nights ago. They talked -- rather painfully -- about Conan's ousting as head of Late Night. "Have you spoken to anybody on NBC since then?" Letterman asked.

"No," O'Brien said. "But all the people who made that decision are out. I hear the new guys are nice."

That seems to be how it is in Network television. Nobody has a shorter life span than a network executive. Dan Harmon will still be doing shows 25 years from now, when the people who made this decision are long gone.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:35 AM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Rory, I agree that the show is absolutely a collaborative effort and by no means solely the product of Dan Harmon, but I think you give individual writers' credits on episodes too much weight in your prognostication. If you read some of the process stuff Megan Ganz has posted (or Harmon himself), a whole lot of the writing for every episode is completely collaborative, with the person getting screen credit for "writing" being the person who drafted the script, but Harmon is consistently mentioned by all involved as instrumental in this process--most of their best ideas have their genesis with him and he's the final arbiter of what made it onto screen. And don't underestimate the value of, for instance, his editing work.

This will be a completely different show without him, even if some of the writers remain.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:35 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno, she made a pretty cryptic tweet...

Community writers have done a lot of crazy things over the years. Could they be going into open revolt to get their boss back? Has a production staff ever taken a show back from a production company by pulling a stunt like this?
posted by Talez at 9:36 AM on May 19, 2012


Looking at the episode list, I can't actually pinpoint any one writer, not even Ganz, who did the work I liked best.

Community is a room written show, so it's difficult to pinpoint who wrote what joke for which episode. Everything I've read points to Harmon playing an active role in tinkering with scripts whether he was credited or not. This profile on Ganz offers at least a little insight into their writing process.
posted by Lorin at 9:39 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maureen Ryan on Dan Harmon's bad temperament, and why he's worth it anyway. Featuring some pretty satisfying closing invective on broadcloath executive types with pinstripes where brains ought to be.
posted by superfluousm at 9:40 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yikes. So *not* six seasons and a movie, then?

A lot of people said this before, but this season finale was good enough to end on, and written with that possibility in mind. Maybe Sony thought so too.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:43 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Megan Ganz also did an episode of the Nerdist Writer's Panel
posted by the_artificer at 9:44 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Without Harmon, Season 4 is basically going to be Community fanfiction.
posted by Memo at 9:44 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


This show is going to turn into The Office, and like The Office I'll keep watching it as each episode gets more and more terrifyingly awful until I just can't stand it anymore, which will be long after it becomes the most repulsive half hour of my week. And I will be bummed.

Almost better to just kill it at its peak like Arrested Development.
posted by Fnarf at 9:49 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let me just say I love Community and started watching it on Hulu entirely because of all the love it gets on Metafilter.

The whole Chang thing was an unfunny waste of time. This whole season has felt weirdly dark and off. At first I was sad to hear Harmon is out, but given:
- they kind of have nowhere to go but up after this last weird season
- this last episode provided some really nice closure for all of the characters so it can function as an actual finale if we need it to later,
- there's worse things in this world than Community fan-fiction
- I watch on Hulu so the time slot doesn't matter to me

I'm also "cautiously optimistic" about what's to come.
posted by bleep at 9:50 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know anyone who thinks the Chang plot was well done. What the hell were they thinking?
posted by kenko at 9:52 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really trying to be optimistic about this, because I'd rather not damn the new season before we even learn anything about it, and Community's always had high writer turnover. But this is starting to seem worse than the show just getting canceled. At least if it was canceled, it would have gone out on a high note. I really, really don't want to see a long, slow decline.

I would honestly be okay with the show getting less weird and genre-bendy, because the first season was low on the crazy genre mash ups and was still great. But I really, really hope that whatever happens, the show keeps its bone deep affection for its characters and does right by them. I know that affection was in large part due to Harmon, but I hope whatever writers remain, they can keep it alive.
posted by yasaman at 9:53 AM on May 19, 2012


Without Harmon, Season 4 is basically going to be Community fanfiction.

Given that some fanfiction that I've read is of considerably higher quality than the original property its based on, this wouldn't necessarily be a problem for me.

However, I agree that it'll be different, and that difference may not be one that I enjoy.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:55 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Trochanter writes "I've never watched the show, but I would guess they're only keeping the show going so it qualifies for syndication, and they're jettisoning budget."

Isn't he getting paid regardless?

Narrative Priorities writes "If I were Sony, I wouldn't have wanted to talk to him directly, either, as I would have to work under the assumption that anything I said would probably be described and commented on by Harmon himself immediately afterward. Better to give him as little material as possible for the inevitable blog post."

I can see your point but a simple call saying "We're looking to go a different way so we're replacing you as show runner" before releasing a press release wouldn't have given much fodder for commentary. Sony's move is like the fast food Assistant Manager who is too cowardly to fire anyone so they just stop scheduling them for any shifts. It's not like they are required to have a lengthy exit interview.

Bwithh writes "Everyone go watch Community's British ancestor, Spaced (especially the rave episode Season 1 Episode 6). That is all."

I'll have to check it out.
posted by Mitheral at 9:55 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the way, showrunner dates back to probably the late 80s. It's been the term for the head writer of a show who also manages and produces the show for, I dunno, a solid 15 years.

There are a lot of funny words in film and television. It has its own language. Shooting without sound is called MOS, and a lot of people in Hollywood think (almost certainly wrongly) it's because German directors used to ask a scene to be filmed "mit out sound." Scenes shot at an angle are called Dutch angles, probably because of German expressionism, but who knows? When a shot is finished, the cameraman will call out "checking the gate!," which he or she actually does to make sure there isn't hair and whatnot on the lens, but it's universally now understood to basically mean "that's a wrap." And people will shout it back, to let everybody know the shot is finished and they are moving on. And some people will shout it back wrong, saying things like "chicken at eight!"

So, anyway, if showrunner sounds weird to you, well, all businesses have their weird lingo, and Hollywood probably more so than anybody.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:59 AM on May 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


I can see your point but a simple call saying "We're looking to go a different way so we're replacing you as show runner" before releasing a press release wouldn't have given much fodder for commentary. Sony's move is like the fast food Assistant Manager who is too cowardly to fire anyone so they just stop scheduling them for any shifts. It's not like they are required to have a lengthy exit interview.

True, but even if they had made that simple call and then refused to answer further questions, Harmon would have been able to write, "Those jackass suits called me up, told me I was fired, and then hung up on me! What the hell?"

I mean, I'm not him, I have no idea what he would or would't have said about a conversation with Sony. I'm just saying that it's hard for him to comment on a conversation that never happened, and it's possible that some corporate PR person wanted it that way.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:59 AM on May 19, 2012


All right, a syndication derail!

The amount of money in syndication is mind-boggling. For example, let's take the case of an anonymous now-canceled network procedural. You've probably already forgotten about the show, honestly.

On a per-episode basis, each hour costs about $3 million to get in the can. It runs for eight years or so—that's $480 million in costs, and it's produced by a media conglomerate, so a lot of those costs (studio facilities, post-prodution operations, music rights) are just pushing numbers on paper, really.

The original airing will get the money back and make a healthy margin for the producers and network. A 15% profit on $480 million is pretty good, wouldn't you say? All the above- and below-the-line staff are paid for and in the public eye in today's entertainment mindshare marketplace. Shareholders are pleased that content production operations continue to show the same growth that they've come to expect from Anonymous Inc's network executives. In other words, without syndication, network and daytime TV pretty much looks the same as what you're used to right now.

Syndication of this unoriginal show you've already forgotten about generates a huge profit margin. Revenues three years out can be in the billions. I'm not even taking into account the profits from home entertainment.

I can't fault Sony for choosing the means of production that is more likely to assure them syndication revenue—they are a public corporation and have to answer to first-world governments. Certainly I can find something better to do with my Thursday nights Friday nights Saturday mornings on Hulu, for sure.

Maybe I'll fire it up on Hulu anyway and let it play through without watching. As he mentioned on his tumblr, Dan still owns 10% of the show.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:01 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wonder if he'll come back to record commentaries...

Per Gillian Jacobs' Instagram feed, they were recording commentaries last week.
posted by Lazlo at 10:05 AM on May 19, 2012


I wonder if they intentionally held off telling Harmon until after the finally aired.
posted by the_artificer at 10:10 AM on May 19, 2012


The Chang plot sounds so good on paper. It would have been the Community gag to end all Community gags. But it was handled so terribly.

Episode-by-episode, Community has a range like no other comedy I've ever seen. It can be ludicrous, it can be entirely grounded. Some of my favorite episodes were the ones about people quietly, seriously, growing up. I even liked the will-they-or-won't-they drama, to some extent: I thought Jeff and Britta and Annie were handled really well, and I was looking forward to a second season where these characters I believed in and cared about dealt with the repercussions of their behavior.

But Community sucks at plot development. It spends hours building up certain arcs and terminated them at a gag's notice. I've seen arguments that this is part of their meta-aware game – "Look at us, defying the basic rules for good dramatic writing!" – but whereas Jeff's kissing Britta in the third episode was a clever subversion, things like the air conditioner school arc and Chang's takeover were just blatantly bad.

What stinks is that it's easy to see ways in which they could have been done better. The air conditioner repair arc had two good episodes! Troy's being stuck between wanting to be with his friends and wanting to do what he's good at provided some real opportunities that Don Glover took and ran with. But the finale threw all that development away, threw away John Goodman's character without his even being on screen – and for what? To replace Goodman with a crappy pseudovillain and a tenseless showdown.

Chang was such a hit-or-miss presence this season – he'd show up, act one way, then disappear for a huge stretch. If we'd seen his gradual rise to power, there could have been some fantastic folly. I like (in theory) how he gains his power by accidentally burning down the school. I love that he recruited little kids to be his security guards. But the transition from that to the fake dean to the heist happened so quickly that I got whiplash. The show never decides if Chang is a loony genius or just loony; his Dean impostor plan suggests he's clever despite the madness, but there's no follow-through with that anywhere else.

Compare to season one, where Chang abuses power and maintains pretty much complete control of his maniacal rages. He wasn't funny because he was insane; he was funny because despite the insanity, he was still a potent adversary, messing with Jeff, humiliating Troy and Pierce, faking his own death just to teach his class that they should never expect to be free of him. He was my favorite character for a long time, through his beating John Oliver with a roll of quarters (the brutality of which kind of shocked me, in a good way), but come season two he stopped being intimidating and started being pathetic. If they'd let him be dominating and powerful again, I think they could have had a seriously good arc, but instead they got their weakest plot arc ever.

And Jeff's behavior in the finale? Completely out of nowhere! Not only is the drama predicated on a character who we haven't seen in two seasons, but Jeff suddenly reverts to "asshole lawyer" after two and a half seasons of pretty much loving the group. They even joked about this in the season one midpoint; by the start of two, it's clear that Jeff realizes he's not the man he used to be.

That doesn't make his ending monologue any less powerful (and it was a damn good monologue). It doesn't mean his behavior is completely unbelievable. But imagine what the end would have been like if the finale had been built up to throughout the season, the way the end to season one was built up gradually. Those last episodes could have been tremendously powerful, the Community gimmicks used to fuse comedy and drama without sacrificing either hilarity or dramatic tension, they way they were used in Modern Warfare and Contemporary Poultry. Community stumbled a bit in season two, especially in the end (the last two Paintballs were a mistake, IMOSHO), and rather than step back and figure out exactly what the balance was that had been lost, they added more to the plate. Which, yay, good, this season went further than they'd ever gone before, and they'd already gone damn far, but I do regret that we didn't ever get to see Community figure itself out and mesh the pop-spoofing with the character development that only showed itself in occasional, frustrating flashes. It could have been truly formidable.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:13 AM on May 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh, speaking of Dino Stamatopoulos, he's currently on a hell of a Twitter rampage:
Starburns wasn't officially dead until now. That'll get 'em. #danharmon

I used to get Sony VHS tapes and they always sucked. Switched to FUGI. Way better. No crinkling, better SLP playing. #FUCKSONY

When I swim I NEVER bob. I once heard that wearing green gives you cancer. And "blatt" is a terrible way to spell "bat"! #fuckbobgreenblatt

Imagine if Sonny and Cher had lost one of their Ns. That would look so stupid! #FUCKSONY

Imagine Bob Greenblatt as a poster child for some horrible disease. That telethon wouldn't make a dollar. #fuckbobgreenblatt

Sony took the "un" out of "sunny and added an "o"! And then THEY CAPITALIZED THE "s"!!! And that's just plain unnatural. #FUCKSONY
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:17 AM on May 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


(Anyone who's feeling sad about Community today is invited to watch this fan tribute with me. I'll be over here at my desk, tearing up with affectionate nostalgia.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:21 AM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


(For context, it was made during the possibly-permanent-hiatus! Thus the "This show needs to stay on the air!" message.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:22 AM on May 19, 2012


I feel like the show Community is the underdog that everyone wants to see succeed except for Chevy Chase.
posted by livinglearning at 10:24 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jeff suddenly reverts to "asshole lawyer" after two and a half seasons of pretty much loving the group.

I dunno, I thought that was kind of of a piece with some of the other things we find out about early in the episode: Troy really is gone; Abed won't leave the apartment—things are falling apart.
posted by kenko at 10:26 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


OKAY, LET'S ALL PRETEND I SAID 'PRODUCER, WRITER, AND DIRECTOR' AND MOVE ON

How about we all pretend you said pro-wri-ector and complain about that instead?
posted by fragmede at 10:28 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


(I'm trying to find an old video made for the Channies where Harmon explains and also is subject to the Circle Theory of Writing, not because it hasn't been explained elsewhere (by him, even), but because it's amusing, and I can't—all the Channy videos seem to have been removed from channel101.com; the hell?)
posted by kenko at 10:32 AM on May 19, 2012


From the Twitter feed of John Rogers, who does the job that Dan Harmon does with his own show, Leverage:
Let's all slow down. Showrunnings a horrible, specific job. Doesn't mean he's off the staff, just not doing that gig on #Community anymore

Hell, you offered me that trade - write but not showrun - there are days I'd take it in a heartbeat. Most would consider it.

(he was asked: "but not showrunning would mean he's no longer able to control the direction of the show that he's created, right?" and replied:

depends on his relationship with the new guys. Not always antagonistic. I've worked with good Showrunner/room runner pairs
So here's some fairly expert commentary from someone else with knowledge of the situation, and we may not see huge changes and massive network interference.
posted by mephron at 10:33 AM on May 19, 2012


So here's some fairly expert commentary from someone else with knowledge of the situation, and we may not see huge changes and massive network interference.

But Harmon already said that he was leaving the show if he didn't get to be the showrunner. At least that's what I got from his tumblr post.
posted by Memo at 10:35 AM on May 19, 2012


I was just about to start in on Community after I got back from traveling this month. What a disappointment.

Oh, Dan, we'll always have Laser Fart. They can't take that away from us.
posted by graftole at 10:37 AM on May 19, 2012


But Harmon already said that he was leaving the show if he didn't get to be the showrunner. At least that's what I got from his tumblr post.

He literally just found out about this and is understandably angry.

Who knows what'll happen between now and when the production gears up for season 4, or what kind of overtures the new staff will or won't make toward him.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:39 AM on May 19, 2012


Isn't that why they replaced Harmon? Ratings are low and they want to show to work differently.
posted by rainy at 10:39 AM on May 19, 2012


They moved the show to Friday nights though. That's not a time slot that's going to help Community win a new audience or gain new viewers, that's a time slot that's banking on a loyal fanbase following the show. If replacing Harmon is a move to increase ratings, it's a poor one. It should be clear at this point that Community isn't really going to gain more of an audience than it has, and that any major changes are only going to alienate the audience it does have.
posted by yasaman at 10:45 AM on May 19, 2012


Oh, Dan, we'll always have Laser Fart. They can't take that away from us.

Once I was young and idealistic just like you. The world was wide and open—many pilots to pursue.
posted by kenko at 10:45 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Notable for the chorus, "I'm Dan Harmon and I shit gold".)
posted by kenko at 10:46 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The ratings that are left are coalescing around one of the most cult-like fanbases since Firefly.

More like Dollhouse. This past season was very weak, at best.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:46 AM on May 19, 2012


It seems like season three was pretty polarizing -- my household adored it, but I'm not surprised that some folks on MeFi are less enthusiastic. It was weird in a "Fuck it let's just do whatever the hell we want since we're probably getting canceled" sort of way.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:51 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know how you go to your favorite bar, and your local bartender isn't there? You ask, "Where's Jeff?" "Jeff no longer works here, I'm Steve." And you're thinking, "Hey, who's this idiot? I like Jeff." But you still want your drink? And even though Steve doesn't mix your drink the same way you're used to, like Jeff, you still like the same bar, you don't want to have to go to a different bar. And even Steve might feel kinda bad because Jeff trained him. Jeff showed him how to work the cash register, where the tonic was on the soda gun, who tips, who doesn't....Well...I'm Steve. What can I get you?
-Colin Quinn, explaining why Weekend Update wouldn't be as good anymore.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:53 AM on May 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


I think all three seasons were about equally good. There are some good and bad episodes, but they average out.
posted by rainy at 11:08 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the best things about Community is it never feels like it settled into a routine run of rehashed themes like 30 Rock and to a lesser extent, Park&Rec.
posted by rainy at 11:11 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damon Lindelof just tweeted: "Not my business, but despite my love and support for COMMUNITY, it needs to be said that there IS a behavioral line that cannot be crossed."
posted by BobbyVan at 11:20 AM on May 19, 2012


I don't understand that tweet. Is he talking about fans raging against Sony? Dino Stamatopoulos?
posted by Memo at 11:24 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


As TV Networks have been forced to spin off brand-awareness and marketing (at least towards the most vocal hard-core fans) out to show creators and staff, awareness of the audience to creators and writers like Harmon have had to grow. But here's Sony treating Harmon as basically a replaceable creator.

Next year, a comparison of Harmon and Sorkin's ouster from West Wing may make for interesting analysis of the fungibility of auteurs on TV.

(I'm sad that Harmon isn't finishing the show, but if he's taking 10% of the syndication profits... well then.)
posted by stratastar at 11:26 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just really curious about what the fuck Network Executives watch. I imagine NBC's "command room" filled with wall-to-wall monitors constantly tuned to Real World or Kardashians or whatever the latest, tritest, steaming-est pile of Nielsen-approved shit is.

I'd also like to meet an actual family with a Nielson box. We will have words.
posted by xqwzts at 11:32 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't understand that tweet. Is he talking about fans raging against Sony? Dino Stamatopoulos?

Judging by the immaturity and rudeness of a significant minority of the Community fanbase, I'd guess he's talking about Community fans. Somebody on the Community subreddit just called Chevy Chase a "fucking wrinkled nut sack douche cock fucker" and that's pretty representative of some of the responses I've seen flying about. Some were quite a bit worse.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:37 AM on May 19, 2012


I'd also like to meet an actual family with a Nielson box. We will have words.

Oh man I just remembered something. Wasn't there an episode of ALF in which Alf saved his favorite TV show -- some silly local-network musical revue -- by somehow finding a secret list of all the Neilson households and calling all of them and getting them to leave their TVs on during the show? Am I just imagining this? It seems so improbable that a 1980s network TV show would devote an episode to the nuances of TV ratings.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:41 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damon Lindelof just tweeted: "Not my business, but despite my love and support for COMMUNITY, it needs to be said that there IS a behavioral line that cannot be crossed."

Considering he's a Polanski apologist, I can't really bring myself to give a single fuck what he think about this or any other situation.
posted by elizardbits at 11:46 AM on May 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


Or maybe he's talking about Dan Harmon drinking and yelling in the writers' room or whatever? Either way, what a nosy hausfrau.
posted by superfluousm at 11:54 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just got caught up with watching the last episode of the season and after this news I think it may be my last. Shows have to end somewhere otherwise they just drag on. As much as I love the show this may be a good time to get off the train. The next stops are Mediocrity and Repetition.
posted by JARED!!! at 11:59 AM on May 19, 2012


I'm just really curious about what the fuck Network Executives watch.

You know, I used to work at Fox (FBC, the network that puts on The Simpsons, etc, not Fox News, not FX) – and I'd be happy to go into this, but in the past, it's just been an invitation to get verbal abuse from other members of this site. Short version: it's a business just like any other business, and most of the people working there are cool people who really care about television, and if Community didn't have a lot of internal support, it would have disappeared after the first season.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:59 AM on May 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Oh man I just remembered something. Wasn't there an episode of ALF in which Alf saved his favorite TV show -- some silly local-network musical revue -- by somehow finding a secret list of all the Neilson households and calling all of them and getting them to leave their TVs on during the show? Am I just imagining this? It seems so improbable that a 1980s network TV show would devote an episode to the nuances of TV ratings.

ALF: Season 2, Episode 5: Prime Time
posted by Hobo at 12:00 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I enjoy Community, but this seems pretty ridiculously one-sided. There seems to be a through-line that Dan Harmon is the genius of all geniuses and every good thing that Community did he was directly involved in and he fought the network tooth and nail for every cool thing that happened on the show.

Maybe, if he cares so much about his baby, instead of taking his ball and going home he should stick around as a writer and fight hard for the ideas he believes in. There's no guarantee that the new guys are directly working to make the show worse: why would they? Further, Happy Endings is a pretty great sitcom.

Instead, Harmon seems to be taking full advantage of this situation to wipe his hands of the show and emerge as a golden boy should the show continue to degrade in quality (which, it already has, this third season). And he gets paid for it! I guess he is a genius.
posted by graventy at 12:07 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you people don't know the term "Showrunner", then you obviously do not (but should) read the blog of Ken Levine, NOT the game creator, but TV sitcom writer/producer/creator, major league baseball announcer, top 40 deejay and odd travel book writer, who not only uses the term several times a month but has held the title himself, as early as M*A*S*H in the '70s, when he and his writing partner were promoted to 'Co-Showrunners' for a couple seasons near the end. The term and the job goes back even farther, as long as multiple "Executive Producer" titles were shared by the Creator, the Star, the Guy Who Sold The Show To The Network and Some Other Guy - that was the Showrunner.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:53 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


OMG! The term "showrunner" is totes very confusing. Looking at it I couldn't parse it at all! I thought, What's a showrunn? How does that affect a TV show? Then I looked at it a little more and noticed that it was, in fact, show and runner combined to make a single word. So I thought maybe it was a person who runs around a show. But that was kind of lame. So I thought about it some more and realized that it was probably a word that referred to a person who runs a TV show. And then I thought everyone in the thread wanted to know that. </sarcasm>

Also, Community is now dead to me. It was the only network comedy I watched, and the only show on NBC -- who for years has just been shoveling shit.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:13 PM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, I for one am reassured that the minds behind the US version of The IT Crowd will be holding the reins from now on.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:18 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Wow, Joel McHale sure dodged a bullet when that pilot wasn't picked up.)
posted by nobody at 1:34 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Joel McHale: ".@danharmon you are a true genius. You gave me the role of a lifetime & three of the best years of my life. Buying #Prototype2 today."
posted by Lyn Never at 1:37 PM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, I for one am reassured that the minds behind the US version of The IT Crowd will be holding the reins from now on.

This seems like a bit of a cheap shot.

Had the US version of "The Office" not gotten picked up, all we'd have remaining as evidence was the pretty weak, imitative pilot, which I don't think would be considered a fair representation of the talents of Greg Daniels, Michael Schur, et al.

Also, this ignores that the new showrunners were producers on "Happy Endings" which is one of the best comedies on TV right now. Sure, if you ignore their successes and focus only on their failures, they seem like terrible choices to take over the reigns. (Not that I'm arguing that replacing Harmon was a good idea, just that I don't think demonizing the new showrunners is the appropriate reaction).
posted by The Gooch at 1:43 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know, eyeballkid, it didn't sound like sarcasm to me.
posted by HuronBob at 1:55 PM on May 19, 2012


This is pretty awesome. From a few days ago, obvs.
posted by kenko at 2:04 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


They change the showrunner on Inspector Spacetime every few seasons. Generally they've started to burn out by then and do weird stuff like casting Bonnie Langford or Catherine Tate, so the change is a relief.
posted by w0mbat at 2:10 PM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


From the Maureen Ryan article posted upthread:

He's probably as difficult to work with as all the stories say he is. But based on what he's achieved with "Community," he's worth it. ... When something, or someone, is difficult, you work on it. When someone rubs you the wrong way, you acknowledge that, figure out how to move forward, and move forward. Why couldn't NBC and Sony do this?

The answer is: because this isn't true 100% of the time. Sometimes, you've had enough. Sometimes, the creative genius isn't worth it. Sometimes, you find someone else who can do a great job and who doesn't spew shit all over you and expose all your back-and-forth and business dealings and stuff you consider confidential and private. Sometimes you think you can make a good thing without the poison, and so why keep the poison around?

This isn't rocket science, guys. If you're a manager and you have an employee who does fantastic work but also causes major, significant problems in the office -- eventually, you're just gonna fire him. It's really not any more complicated than that.
posted by incessant at 2:33 PM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


jph: "I think I'm going to request that I have all of my titles modified to this newspeak format. I shall be henceforth referred to as jph, the:

- singsonger!
- docanalyzer!
- stuffresearcher!
- wordwriter!
- dogmonsterwalker!
- nomcooker!
"

So that makes me a catpetter, metafiltercommenter, and a toomuchmountaindewbluedrinker, then?

Not to mention a meatseller and a sadlysingleguy to boot.
posted by Samizdata at 2:42 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This isn't rocket science, guys. If you're a manager and you have an employee who does fantastic work but also causes major, significant problems in the office -- eventually, you're just gonna fire him. It's really not any more complicated than that.

Because people are completely fungible in creative industries.
posted by Talez at 2:46 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like when Apple fired Steve Jobs?
posted by eyeballkid at 3:04 PM on May 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ah, I found it!

Dan Harmon explains plot structure with Aaron Yonda and Matt Sloan.
posted by kenko at 3:36 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Because people are completely fungible in creative industries.

YES THIS IS ALL ABOUT CREATIVE GENIUS.

Except it isn't.
posted by incessant at 3:44 PM on May 19, 2012


...you can’t make my version of it unless I have the option of saying “it has to be like this or I quit” roughly 8 times a day. - Dan Harmon

Maybe he was difficult to work with? It was worth it to us watching, but I really wonder what happened.
posted by amtho at 4:03 PM on May 19, 2012


Oh, Dan, we'll always have Laser Fart. They can't take that away from us.

We'll also always have The Dungeons and Dragons Sketch, of which Dan Harmon was a part.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:05 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


This isn't rocket science, guys. If you're a manager and you have an employee who does fantastic work but also causes major, significant problems in the office -- eventually, you're just gonna fire him. It's really not any more complicated than that.

This is just true.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:06 PM on May 19, 2012


This isn't rocket science, guys. If you're a manager and you have an employee who does fantastic work but also causes major, significant problems in the office -- eventually, you're just gonna fire him. It's really not any more complicated than that.

I think this is the wrong analogy. In this case I believe Dan Harmon's employment was the product being sold. You can't keep selling that which you've thrown away. You fire these employees without destroying the business.
posted by bswinburn at 4:45 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You can't fire these emploees without destroying the business" that is.
posted by bswinburn at 4:46 PM on May 19, 2012


Third time's the charm, bswinburn!
posted by kenko at 4:49 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can't fire these employees without destroying the business.

Says who? If Sony thought Dan Harmon were indispensable to the creation of the show, they would've kept him around.

There are lots of really great writers (and actors, and directors) who're also really really hard to work with. They don't work half as much as the good writers who're easy to work with. Execs and producers and directors and everyone like to work with people who're smart and produce good work and dynamic and also who are pleasant people.
posted by incessant at 5:00 PM on May 19, 2012


Execs and producers and directors and everyone like to work with people who're smart and produce good work and dynamic and also who are pleasant people.

Yeah, and if those people are so fucking awesome, how come they didn't create the show? Why do they need to come in and take over for someone who did all the work?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:07 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Simpsons got a new showrunner after the 8th season. And that didn't turn out so bad, did it?

Did it?

.

posted by moorooka at 5:15 PM on May 19, 2012


If you're a manager and you have an employee who does fantastic work but also causes major, significant problems in the office -- eventually, you're just gonna fire him.

If you're a shit manager, yes. If you're at all competent, you'll figure out a way for him to keep doing the fantastic stuff, and find a way to deal with the problems. Maybe you hire someone to take care of the management side and let him continue with the creative stuff. Maybe you let him bitch at you and not get high and mighty about it.

But then, I am not a Hollywood exec, so what do I know?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:48 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


the_artificer: "TV screenwriting terms for those confused by showrunner"

I'm not confused by it. I just fucking hate it.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:48 PM on May 19, 2012


Someone mentioned Aaron Sorkin leaving The West Wing further upthread. And they were right - season five sucked. But seasons six and seven were actually pretty great; different but still great.

The comparison also holds because Harmon and Sorkin both had trouble with getting scripts written in time and budget overruns. I am sympathetic to Harmon for getting fired in such a terrible way, but as incessant says - you can't keep employing someone who is a genius when he's costing the company lots and lots of money.
posted by crossoverman at 7:13 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well Hell's Bells.

I was ready to accept a graceful in for Community. A thirteen episode departure, perhaps a prelude to (4) seasons and a movie, a pick up to show side by side with Cougar Town on TBS, any number of things that in every conceivable, predictable manner included Dan Harmon.

For good or bad, the show had become an extension of the creator. As much as Harmon shared the lives of six members of a community college study group with us, he also shared a lot of himself in the process. In my mind at least, I cannot separate the two.

I know that I will tune in next Fall. I feel shameful for admitting it. I need to know by experience that the magic will not be there. The Hollywood illusion in this case is not the fake background on the set, but the fake background behind the script; the words that flow from our beloved characters' lips and the misadventures or developments in their lives. Without Harmon's approval, it will very definitely feel false and empty.

Community became a show that I loved not just for the story it told, but how it was told. It delighted in a variety of topics in celebration of them, not propping them up as jokes for others to laugh at. While I don't think I share any of the psychological ticks of Abed, I do share a fair number of his appreciations for visual media. Short of Ben Browder's cracks on Farscape, I don't really recall a television show that represented this type of character. Not to mention, just the tapestry of nods that Harmon and Company wove into all their episodes from plot devices to actual framing of scenes. It was brilliant to me, and I guess, I'll have to pick up the trail all by my lonesome once again. The company was grand while it lasted.

This feels like an obituary for the living. Now a summer to wait to either hate what Community will become or myself for holding on to enough foolish belief that it will not be so.
posted by Atreides at 7:20 PM on May 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I agree.. there may be great writers, but Harmon ties it all together, like carpet did room in that old movie.
posted by rainy at 7:27 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're a shit manager, yes. If you're at all competent, you'll figure out a way for him to keep doing the fantastic stuff, and find a way to deal with the problems. Maybe you hire someone to take care of the management side and let him continue with the creative stuff. Maybe you let him bitch at you and not get high and mighty about it.

Perhaps the manager can choose to take the abuse, but it is absolutely irresponsible to let some "golden boy" create a hostile environment for everyone else. *IF* Harmon was doing this, good for Sony for making a principled decision in spite of any money it might cost them.
posted by gjc at 7:28 PM on May 19, 2012


eyeballkid writes "Like when Apple fired Steve Jobs?"

NeXT probably wouldn't have happened if Steve Jobs hadn't left Apple and we probably wouldn't have Pixar in it's current form, iTunes or OSX now either.
posted by Mitheral at 7:44 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]



I find it interesting that it took hours for the thread to get around to whether Dan Harmon is actually really hard to work with.

I mean, I understand why. There's an information imbalance; we know all about the end product because we watch it, and so we say, "how could you fire the guy who is largely responsible for this end product?" And it often takes years for someone to build a negative reputation, as people are often diplomatic and unwilling to shit on one another.

I'm not prepared to think too hard about this, because I don't have all the facts, but it would not surprise me to learn that Harmon really was quite difficult to work with, and that his firing can be justified on paper. As a reminder: he was fired from The Sarah Silverman Program, a show he co-created, reportedly over personality clashes.

And the stuff about long hours and script rewrites hits home for me. I don't have any experience with writing for TV shows, but I have experience writing code for a startups, and some of the traits are uncomfortably familiar. Say what you will about perfectionists, but they usually don't create healthy working environments. Often it's not clear whether the extra hours are even worth it — I've spent long hours in crunch time shipping a product that I believed was not very good. It's not a recipe for high morale.

Part of the problem is that we seem to have designed TV shows to be unsustainable. I mean, traditional sitcoms (three cameras, studio audience) sound like they're plush gigs, but the single-camera comedies and hour-long dramas we know and love are hard, hard work, and I think we're spoiled to get 23 episodes in a season when the standard for the UK is something between six and twelve. Unless you're Aaron Sorkin, you can't write two dozen scripts per year. Which means you need other writers to collaborate with, and that's where sparks fly if you're dealing with someone who doesn't collaborate well.

I'm starting to think we should have twice as many shows and half as many episodes. If we had shorter seasons, I think people would be more patient with the Dan Harmons of the world, because TV shows would feel less like full-time jobs and more like movie shoots. It'd mean that Community wouldn't need a room full of writers, but then all those writers could be off developing their own shows.

I mean, in the short term, this has no earthly chance of happening; once a show becomes popular, its network will try its damnedest to cut the golden goose open. I'm sure someone at CBS is sitting in a room trying to figure out how to get 50 episodes a year out of The Big Bang Theory. But it might be something to consider for the utopian future we all dream about where the Netflix experiment succeeds and shows are free from the tyranny of terrestrial networks and it rains doughnuts fortnightly.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:17 PM on May 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


I find it interesting that it took hours for the thread to get around to whether Dan Harmon is actually really hard to work with.

I took it as a given (but then, the confusing nature of showrunner... I probably over-estimate).
I suspect it's because we don't care if he's difficult if it delivers a product that brings joy to us each and every week.

Community is the first sitcom since odd episodes of Roseanne (and, oddly, one random episode of Everyone Loves Raymond when the Dad drove his car into Raymond's house), where my jaw drops. (I suspect there are episodes of MASH that are the same, I just can't think of any offhand).

It's the only sitcom I've ever purchased on DVD.

If he's difficult, if he fights, it's almost certainly because he's passionate. He wants to deliver a product that hits its marks and exceeds our expectations (which it seems to do, even when it delivers the odd clanger).

I'd rather than than a wildly uneven, tired sitcom produced by people for whom it's just another day at the office.

(And I think it's fair to throw up the US IT Crowd pilot. That was damn toxic waste, on par with the Red Dwarf pilots.)
posted by Mezentian at 10:07 PM on May 19, 2012


NeXT probably wouldn't have happened if Steve Jobs hadn't left Apple and we probably wouldn't have Pixar in it's current form, iTunes or OSX now either

All true and I look forward to Harmon's future endeavors. A 13 episode season of Community with brand new management and mostly new creative has a 107% chance of sucking.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:13 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


OKAY, LET'S ALL PRETEND I SAID 'PRODUCER, WRITER, AND DIRECTOR' AND MOVE ON

But on days we get umpteen posts about the word showrunner, not so much.

It’s discussion, I’m not sure why that’s upsetting to some. Everything is not a fight, it works out better if you don’t view it that way.

So, anyway, if showrunner sounds weird to you, well, all businesses have their weird lingo, and Hollywood probably more so than anybody.

That’s how discussion works.
posted by bongo_x at 10:15 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe that discussion would be better off in Metatalk so it doesn't drown out other discussions?
posted by Artw at 10:36 PM on May 19, 2012


Yeah, and if those people are so fucking awesome, how come they didn't create the show?

Plenty of pleasant, nice people have created awesome shows.

I suspect it's because we don't care if he's difficult if it delivers a product that brings joy to us each and every week.

You may not care, but the people who work with him care.

traditional sitcoms (three cameras, studio audience) sound like they're plush gigs,

This is the opposite of true.

the standard for the UK is something between six and twelve.

This is because there's no money in television in the UK. If UK shows attracted the kind of syndication deals US shows did, you can bet they'd be pushing for 22 super-sized episodes of Miranda, and maybe maybe maybe an extra 2 for the summer.

I'm starting to think we should have twice as many shows and half as many episodes.

Shows have start-up costs -- sets, crewing up, staffing, development -- but once you've put money into those things, you don't need to do it again. And each pilot may cost tens of millions of dollars because it's a complete stand-alone. If you want twice as many shows, you'll need to make twice as many pilots -- that's your r&d. Still wanna make twice as many shows at half the episodes?

If we had shorter seasons, I think people would be more patient with the Dan Harmons of the world, because TV shows would feel less like full-time jobs and more like movie shoots. It'd mean that Community wouldn't need a room full of writers, but then all those writers could be off developing their own shows.

The writer's room is the core of television, the bright center around which all other pieces orbit, and without the room, you have no TV. There are exceptions, but they are very few and very far between, and the results from these shows are no more consistent than traditional shows and they never end well.

If you're a shit manager, yes. If you're at all competent, you'll figure out a way for him to keep doing the fantastic stuff, and find a way to deal with the problems. Maybe you hire someone to take care of the management side and let him continue with the creative stuff. Maybe you let him bitch at you and not get high and mighty about it.

But then, I am not a Hollywood exec, so what do I know?


You've already stated quite clearly what you don't know.
posted by incessant at 10:56 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The writer's room is the core of television, the bright center around which all other pieces orbit, and without the room, you have no TV. There are exceptions, but they are very few and very far between, and the results from these shows are no more consistent than traditional shows and they never end well.

Babylon 5 would like to argue with you. Well, seasons 2-4 would.
Although, that is just one example.
posted by Mezentian at 11:02 PM on May 19, 2012


Someone mentioned Aaron Sorkin leaving The West Wing further upthread. And they were right - season five sucked. But seasons six and seven were actually pretty great; different but still great.

The comparison also holds because Harmon and Sorkin both had trouble with getting scripts written in time and budget overruns. I am sympathetic to Harmon for getting fired in such a terrible way, but as incessant says - you can't keep employing someone who is a genius when he's costing the company lots and lots of money.


yeah I did. and the thing is.. maybe those later seasons didn't suck, but they weren't the same show as s1-4. and you know who took Sorkin's place as the (i won't say the word)? John Wells. not exactly an untalented guy. he'd already done ER from it's inception. George Clooney and Anthony Edwards -era ER.. not my favorite show but still a very good one. he just wasn't Sorkin and he didn't 'know' Sorkin's characters in the same way. Sorkin wrote every single one of the 87 episodes from those 4 seasons, and then promptly burned out (that was the rumor, right?).
posted by ninjew at 11:22 PM on May 19, 2012


I like this show but I am curious about finding a Top-to-the-Bottom perspective on this situation (perhaps both heirarchically as well as from the helicopter). Nothing inflammatory, just an attempt at objectivity in to how this process works.

Would it be fair to start in Culver City with Michael Lynton, large investors, and various other chairmen of the board? How does it trickle down from here? What are the next largest decision makers in this process?
posted by coolxcool=rad at 11:28 PM on May 19, 2012


I'd bet dollars to donuts that somewhere, someone did a series of tests, and those tests showed that large numbers of people from various demographic segments liked Joel McHale and Alison Brie and Donald Glover and a bunch of other things, but they didn't like the writing.

And then someone said, "What if we could keep Joel and Alison and Donald and the other things, and we just replaced the writers? If we were making omelettes, and everyone said 'no mushrooms,' we'd leave out the mushrooms, right?"

And Dan Harmon told them all to go straight to hell.

And the some other guy said, "But I write the checks."

And that was that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:29 PM on May 19, 2012


Would it be fair to start in Culver City with Michael Lynton, large investors, and various other chairmen of the board? How does it trickle down from here? What are the next largest decision makers in this process?

Isn't there one of those Fox News editorialising people who used to map that kind of stuff out? I recall he used a blackboard.

I think we need to get Glenn Beck on this one. Stat.
posted by Mezentian at 11:33 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd love to be the "anti-corporate" version of Glenn Beck but I really am asking for the knowledgeable denizens of MeFi to have some fun, use their understandings, and fill in these blanks.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 11:36 PM on May 19, 2012


Man.
I just compared you (however remotely) to Beck.
I feel so dirty.
I am so, so sorry.
posted by Mezentian at 11:38 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man.
I just compared you (however remotely) to Beck.
I feel so dirty.
I am so, so sorry.


It ain't no thing, Mezentian.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 11:40 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fantastic.
SO I can compare you to the weird History Channel guy with the Centari hair?

Because I think aliens might be involved.
Harmon gets booted and The Neighbours (warning "network comedy") gets made?

Clearly, they're getting read for an invasion.
posted by Mezentian at 11:45 PM on May 19, 2012


If you want twice as many shows, you'll need to make twice as many pilots -- that's your r&d. Still wanna make twice as many shows at half the episodes?

Yes.

Or rather, I don't want to make any shows—for one thing, I don't have the money for a single one.

I still want there to be twice as many shows at half the episodes.
posted by kenko at 11:51 PM on May 19, 2012


Also unicorns, please!
posted by incessant at 11:54 PM on May 19, 2012


Fantastic.
SO I can compare you to the weird History Channel guy with the Centari hair?

(I only I had half the career that guy has)

Let me make something clear to you about Community and myself. I'm an internet loyalist and that damn show got me to actually turn on terrestrial TV every Thursday to watch it, commercials and all. It was the first since, maybe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, when I was a child in the '80s to make me actually tune in to something in order to watch a new episode. That's how excited I was to see a new installment of a random series that I'd come to respect and enjoy.

Anyway, I'm still just curious to see how "the sausage is made". Any feedback to my initial query is welcome.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 12:05 AM on May 20, 2012


yeah I did. and the thing is.. maybe those later seasons didn't suck, but they weren't the same show as s1-4. and you know who took Sorkin's place as the (i won't say the word)? John Wells. not exactly an untalented guy. he'd already done ER from it's inception. George Clooney and Anthony Edwards -era ER.. not my favorite show but still a very good one. he just wasn't Sorkin and he didn't 'know' Sorkin's characters in the same way.

He just didn't write them the same way. And, you know, there's some truth to the fact they were written badly for a time - and then somehow the production team regrouped and put a new spin on The West Wing that made it work in seasons six and seven. And I'd say those seasons were equal to seasons three and four under Sorkin, when he was getting near burn-out. They were different, but different doesn't always mean worse.

Community is far more idiosyncratic than The West Wing. Sorkin has a skill for writing dialogue that no one else writing for the show could quite match, but Wells had a better sense of the bigger picture and season arcs. Sorkin wrote 22 plays every season. Wells' sixth and seventh seasons were like two novels.

I'm not trying to argue that making Community without Dan Harmon is going to be easy, I'm just saying it's not impossible.

Sorkin wrote every single one of the 87 episodes from those 4 seasons, and then promptly burned out (that was the rumor, right?).

This is somewhat incorrect - he had a staff pitching stories and doing research. And I think, perhaps, writing first drafts. Sorkin always re-wrote those. And I appreciated that as a viewer, because they made each episode feel like they were from one guy, rather than a room full of different writers.

But I have some sympathy with the other writers who demanded some recognition for their work; take Rick Cleveland, who was credited for "In Excelsis Deo" along with Sorkin - which won the Emmy for Best Writing. Sorkin later claimed Cleveland hadn't contributed significantly to the script, going so far as to say the writing credits were simply rotated among the staff. Except the story was based on Cleveland's father's experiences in Korea.

All I'm saying is that we can hold these SHOWRUNNERS (they "run the show", how hard is this to understand, people?) up on pedastools and claim that the show cannot be done without them, forgetting that no man is an island and that no show is entirely untouchable when it comes to the complexities of television production.

NBC had the same option when Sorkin was running late with scripts and the budget was blowing out; they could have cancelled the show, too. I'm glad they didn't put everyone else out of work to teach Aaron Sorkin a lesson. Same here with Dan Harmon.
posted by crossoverman at 1:08 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me make something clear to you about Community and myself. I'm an internet loyalist and that damn show got me to actually turn on terrestrial TV every Thursday to watch it, commercials and all.

You are a better person than I am. In 2014, when it is shown here on free-to-air, we should continue this chat.

I'm otherwise with you in the "It's a show that is more than a simple show" camp.

Anyway, I'm still just curious to see how "the sausage is made"

No one wants to know how the sausage is made. Not really.
Even if it's not lips and assholes and sawdust, i's still wrapped in stomache.

I make my own. Skinless.
I am Harmon in the kitchen. But my work touches few.
posted by Mezentian at 1:24 AM on May 20, 2012


> This is the opposite of true.

Let me elaborate, and you can tell me where I've gone wrong:

It's my understanding that three-camera sitcoms are less work because you shoot it all in order on one day, often performing in front of a studio audience. I've heard several former sitcom actors describe it as a less-than-forty-hours-a-week job.

Contrast it with single-camera comedies and dramas, which often film on locations, have to do multiple takes of each scene to get coverage, and thus take much longer to edit. On top of that, the dramas also have to fill twice as much time.

Now, I imagine the contrast is starker for actors than for writers, but it still seems like a three-camera sitcom is less work for everyone involved.

Shows have start-up costs -- sets, crewing up, staffing, development -- but once you've put money into those things, you don't need to do it again. And each pilot may cost tens of millions of dollars because it's a complete stand-alone. If you want twice as many shows, you'll need to make twice as many pilots -- that's your r&d. Still wanna make twice as many shows at half the episodes?

And yet plenty of shows get no more than 13 episodes before they're cancelled. Even really expensive ones. One of the things I've never understood about network TV.

(I feel like there's more of a focus on 13-week orders these days than on full seasons, but maybe I'm wrong and it's always been that way.)

The writer's room is the core of television, the bright center around which all other pieces orbit, and without the room, you have no TV. There are exceptions, but they are very few and very far between, and the results from these shows are no more consistent than traditional shows and they never end well.

I'm open to being convinced that this is an essential part of television-making, but simply stating it doesn't make it so. Gervais and Merchant can go write half a dozen episodes of The Office, come back, and shoot them. I don't see why we can't do more of that in America.

I am aware that this sounds hyper-idealistic, and of course there is a system in place and it works a certain way and change happens slowly. This isn't something I'm deeply invested in. I care about it just enough to write a few posts on a Metafilter thread.
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:05 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"All I'm saying is that we can hold these SHOWRUNNERS (they "run the show", how hard is this to understand, people?) up on pedastools and claim that the show cannot be done without them, forgetting that no man is an island and that no show is entirely untouchable when it comes to the complexities of television production."

Right. There's no question that some very talented and passionate people involved in film and television come very close to achieving the ideal that the auteur theory imagines. But there's a good reason why people involved in the industry and those who are otherwise very informed about it are generally skeptical about auteur theory, especially as a response to how hugely fans have come to overestimate that it reflects the reality of film and television production.

Film and television are deeply, almost uniquely, collaborative creative enterprises. Not only are there extremely effective creative decisions being made by people that most of the audience is mostly unaware of — the editors, the photographers, the set designers, the sound designers, the scorers, and many others — but often the writing itself is collaborative and, in television, the direction is more journeyman than auteur.

When an unusually talented creative artist acts successfully as an auteur, that's usually the combination of two things: a) that it's just a kind of serendipity where everything lines up in such a way that the creative artist's vision is expressed in the final product in a unified fashion and any number of things which can, and usually do, go wrong (even for that artist on other products) just happened to not have gone wrong on this one; and, related to that, b) there's been a number of other important people involved in the project who shared the auteur's vision and worked hard and contributed their own creative talents in respects crucial to the project's success.

Occasionally an auteur's project succeeds even when it's star-crossed (for example, Apocalypse Now); but, again, it's still only a success because a bunch of other talented people were involved and did their jobs well.

It's important to understand that in television — with very, very rare exceptions (and those are usually low-budget and niche programs) — the process and the end-product are even more collaborative and less likely to be an auteur's vision. It's the nature of the beast in many respects, having much to do with both the format and how it works as a business.

It's relatively rare, actually, for a show to be produced and aired that is anything close to an auteur's production. In television this is usually where the creator with a coherent, passionate vision pitches the show and he/she gets selected as showrunner — and they have enough clout with the studio and network to actually have some deep, long-term creative control over it. There really aren't that many examples of television shows that have been like this — that's why we're all familiar with the ones that are. And, even then, it's still a heavily collaborative project.

That's not to say that certain creative individuals, and especially highly creative showrunners, might not play a key role in making a show successful. But that's because — and I think we all can understand this from other collaborative enterprises — even when someone directly contributes only, say, 25% to something, it can often be the case that their particular vision, personality, and other indefinable things are involved in making the whole thing just work.

But especially with volatile creative people, it can also be the case that those people can turn right around and sabotage the project, too. Because it's collaborative, and when other parts of the machine start not working right and breaking down, the whole thing begins to fail. It doesn't take much, and that's why most creative projects are bad to mediocre.

Getting rid of someone that's hard to work with is not necessarily the wrong decision if they're ostensibly the creative center, even when they're brilliant. This happens fairly regularly in Hollywood with auteurs who are difficult to work with — a lot of their projects are stillborn. And a not-insignificant portion of them are failures when they aren't replaced when they should have been.

I'm not saying that Community isn't more likely than not to be lacking that special something that Harmon brought to it. It almost certainly will be missing something. How much that will end up making it worse rather than better is an open question, though. It may be that if Harmon was difficult to work with, then he was poisoning his own project, anyway, and we fans are not likely to be blaming him for it. We're unrealistic about this stuff.

But the one thing that is definitely true is that it's very, very mistaken to think about a difficult, temperamental and indiscreet writer or director or showrunner in film and television in the same terms, and make the same value calculations, as you'd think of the same personalities as authors or composers or painters. Famous and successful and highly regarded film directors, for example, who are notoriously difficult to work with are famous and successful and highly-regarded depsite the fact that they're difficult for other people to work with. There's no rule that says that you have to be a jerk about being a perfectionist, have to be a jerk about asserting a creative vision. Assertive, yes. A jerk, no. Obviously, sometimes other people equivocate being a jerk and being assertive in a self-interested way. But there's a lot of truly obnoxious creative professionals out there who simply don't have to be obnoxious to accomplish what they're doing.

There's lots of different personality types and some of them are assholes. What happens in any vocation is that the people who are both assholes and are talented and work hard often use the latter as an excuse to get away with the former — and it's more often the case than many realize that the managers who make this compromise are making the wrong decision. Every workplace has had someone who was an asshole but were thought of for a long time as being too valuable to lose...and then, when they're gone, you discover that they weren't irreplaceable at all and everyone is happier and more productive without them.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:29 AM on May 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm wondering if some of you commenting about how Harmon's temper shouldn't matter, the show must go on, rah rah rah!, have ever worked with a foul-tempered boss in a creative environment before.

It can be hell. Even if you're working on something great, it's just a completely awful experience all around. Working with nice directors in a high-stress situation can get pretty intense; when the person in charge is reputedly foul, things turn ghastly.

It's no surprise that Community's writing staff has such a high turnover. I mean, you can see Harmon's personality stamped across his blog, as well as his perspective on his own personal life. He's quick, he's funny, he's honest – but there are parts of himself he just doesn't have under control, and he's aware of it, but seemingly he has no control over those parts of himself. So at some point in his career, he realized things weren't going to get any better, shrugged, and embraced his worst traits along with his best, letting them take him where they took him.

The result has been a fantastic show (and I'm not writing off season four yet – it may continue to be fantastic), but doubtlessly it was hell for the people working with him, and probably he's incapable of working any other way. I'm glad that he was given three years to work on his personal vision, but at the same time, there's proof all over the place that he was insufferable, cast members publicly spoke out against him, probably there was conflict with other writers and actors that simply haven't gone public. At some point you weigh the bad against the good and decide the problem's gotten bad enough that you've got to remove its source. Even when the good came from the same source as well.

Creativity isn't some wah-wah tweedle-dee-dee fairytale where the good shining creative person comes from out of the muck and leads us all to a new promised place. It is usually stranger and darker and more fascinating than the products it results in. elizardbits criticized Damon Lindelof for supporting Roman Polanski, but I looked at his NYTimes editorial and the point Lindelof made* was simply: some artists are simultaneously great and terrible people. Very, very few manage to be simultaneously great and good. At some point you have to separate the person from the artist and say, you've made something wonderful, but that doesn't make up for the rest of you.

Dan is obviously way way WAY less controversial than Polanski, and by all odds he's going to have many more projects to work on in his career. Hopefully more TV shows. By some standards Community was a success; maybe Netflix hires him to do an original series vis-à-vis Community or he does a Kickstarter and raises seventy million billion dollars. In 2012 an artist has more options than ever before, and Harmon's well-off enough that he can really decide where he wants to go next. But that doesn't mean that everybody who ever works with him has to swallow his shit and deal with his obscenely difficult quirks, and it means sometimes he's going to get burned. He was given three increasingly-bizarre seasons. That's enough for anybody to be grateful for.

* If Lindelof said something more somewhere else then I'm sorry for being a Lindelof apologist. But from just the editorial it sounded like he was saying, "Polanski's a shit, but he makes brilliant movies," and Polanski is one of the best filmmakers alive. I agree that you can watch a Polanski film without endorsing the man or his horrible crimes.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:33 AM on May 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh, speaking of Dino Stamatopoulos,

He even has experience with showrunning and the executives meddling, with Adult Swim having cut the "Moral Orel" run short.
posted by drezdn at 5:00 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


'pedastools'? I think you mean 'pedestals'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:02 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ugh, drezdn, don't remind me. If Moral Orel had run another two seasons it would have been legitimately one of the best shows of all time. As it stood, the first two seasons were great and the third is a masterpiece.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:27 AM on May 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's my understanding that three-camera sitcoms are less work because you shoot it all in order on one day, often performing in front of a studio audience. I've heard several former sitcom actors describe it as a less-than-forty-hours-a-week job.

Contrast it with single-camera comedies and dramas, which often film on locations, have to do multiple takes of each scene to get coverage, and thus take much longer to edit. On top of that, the dramas also have to fill twice as much time.

Now, I imagine the contrast is starker for actors than for writers, but it still seems like a three-camera sitcom is less work for everyone involved.


The downside of the three camera, live audience show is that it takes a lot of effort to get everything ready to go for the shoot. It might be easier for the actors on one hand, but more stressful on another. More pressure to not screw up in front of an audience, cause a re-shoot that costs tons of money (because everyone is working on shoot day), etc. It's probably harder to stay in character and psych oneself up for a scene when there is so much going on.
posted by gjc at 6:06 AM on May 20, 2012


Where is the evidence that Harmon is some toxic asshole boss, as everyone seems to be assuming?

At least one of his writers has already quit in protest of his firing. You have Joel McHale talking about how Harmon gave him the best three years of his life. The only cast member who seems to have a problem with him is Chevy Chase, who himself has a reputation as being difficult and unpleasant. From the interviews I've read with writers on the show Harmon seems to be genuinely well-liked.

It seems pretty obvious why they fired him: the show is weird and has terrible ratings and they feel like it would get better ratings if it they made it less weird, which isn't something that Harmon is willing to do. I don't see why we need to go looking for fatal character flaws to explain it.
posted by enn at 6:51 AM on May 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


'pedastools'? I think you mean 'pedestals'.

I actually find 'pedestools' rather fitting.
posted by xqwzts at 7:31 AM on May 20, 2012


I was having shitty dreams about the cancellation of Dan Harmon last night. Fuck Sony, indeed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:18 AM on May 20, 2012


It seems pretty obvious why they fired him: the show is weird and has terrible ratings and they feel like it would get better ratings if it they made it less weird, which isn't something that Harmon is willing to do.

He was also often late with scripts, and that and other things increased costs.

But that isn't "asshole boss".
posted by kenko at 8:26 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


And yet plenty of shows get no more than 13 episodes before they're cancelled. Even really expensive ones. One of the things I've never understood about network TV.

Let's say you buy 22 episodes of a show. That money is gone; it's a sunk cost. OK, you didn't spend everything you need to spend yet, because there would be some additional expenses every time you air them, but stay with me here. You bought episodes for a price and intend to air them. Boom, money gone.

After 13 episodes, each episode is not turning a profit. They are not as popular as you hoped, advertisers are not supporting them, and they're making people change the channel, which has a knock-on effect of lowering ratings for the shows that follow it on the schedule. In the case of shows leading up to 11 p.m. local news, affiliates get angry, because local news is a profit center for them.

Now you have a decision to make. Do you keep running the money-losing show in hopes that it finds its audience? Or do you slot something else in its place that might do less damage, or even turn a profit?

Now, if you're thinking, "But wait, I bought 22 episodes; I can't let them go to waste," then you're not understanding the meaning of "sunk cost." That money is already gone and should not influence your decision at this point. All you can logically care about is the situation at hand, which is what to do with an under-performing time slot.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:06 AM on May 20, 2012


If they cure Abed, I will be so very, very pissed.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where is the evidence that Harmon is some toxic asshole boss, as everyone seems to be assuming?

What evidence would it take to satisfy you? Sony's not going to release his HR file, and anything else is hearsay.

I can tell you that among my tv writer friends, Joss Whedon is known to be a genuinely nice guy and a pleasure to work with. Dan Harmon has the opposite reputation.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2012


There's a WTF podcast interview with Dan Harmon if anybody cares about learning what he is like.
posted by discopolo at 10:20 AM on May 20, 2012



Harmon will be replaced on the comedy by David Guarascio and Moses Port. In the fall, NBC will move "Community" to Fridays, where it will be paired with "Whitney."


GAG. If the show is that terrible, why pair it with something as awful as "Whitney"?
posted by discopolo at 11:36 AM on May 20, 2012


HuffPo has screen shots of four of the main cast members' tweets and whom appear appreciative of Harmon's role in Community.
posted by Atreides at 2:17 PM on May 20, 2012


I in no way think Harmon was about to Lucas us, but it's made me think about the fact that we cannot have an example of someone preventing a prequel situation exactly because it would have been prevented.
posted by flaterik at 2:46 PM on May 20, 2012


> Now, if you're thinking, "But wait, I bought 22 episodes; I can't let them go to waste," then you're not understanding the meaning of "sunk cost." That money is already gone and should not influence your decision at this point. All you can logically care about is the situation at hand, which is what to do with an under-performing time slot.

Oh, I get the sunk cost part. If you think the show has no hope of rebounding, it obviously makes sense to cancel it, no matter how much it costs.

But I don't get why a network is willing to spend so much money on a series that may only get six episodes.
posted by savetheclocktower at 4:07 PM on May 20, 2012


Rory Marinich: "If Moral Orel had run another two seasons it would have been legitimately one of the best shows of all time. As it stood, the first two seasons were great and the third is a masterpiece."

As someone who watched that program some in the first season and thought -- this is a pretty good show and cute and makes its points in an entertaining (if, ironically, preachy) way while only getting occasionally dark in episodes I saw (like when Orel was addicted to crack) -- who later, long after the unknown-to-me behind-the-scenes drama, was alone at home having a bout with insomnia -- and caught the end of season 2 and the first few episodes of season 3 -- I think the word you were looking for was monster-piece.

Because, just fuck... if a jackhammer vibrator can be used in a way that makes you, rather than laugh at the joke, instead be darn near tears, you're watching a damn fine but quite disturbing piece of television.

As far as the actual show and news were discussing here, as a person who enjoys Community this is sad, and as a person who appreciates (or at least imagines) that one becomes attached to their creative projects, I feel for Dan Harmon. A lot. But, as I think I said in an earlier Community thread, that respect doesn't make me think his public persona seems like a pretty big asshole any less.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:50 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Greetings from the land of television experience. I've been wanting to comment here for the past two days but have been too busy to write out what I want. Not everything I say here will be accurate, and I welcome corrections, but I've worked in tv and have been following this and can hopefully clarify a few things.

First, there's a network and a production company. The production company, Sony in this case, makes the show, and the network - NBC - purchases it. Shows about television tend to conflate the two (such as 30 Rock) but there's a reason for that and we'll get to it later. Point is, Dan Harmon worked for Sony, not NBC.

This week, NBC ordered a new, though shortened, season of Community. Then Sony fired (or rather chose not to re-up) Dan Harmon. Obviously there were phone calls and meetings between the two corporations about that, but I don't believe that NBC was in favor of the decision. They ordered the new season, shortened, as they did with 30 Rock and Parks & Rec. With 30 Rock it's understood that this will be the end (there's not really a show without Alec Baldwin and it has run it's course anyway.) With the other two there is the slim possibility of continuance.

So why, then, did NBC move Community to Friday nights? The "death slot"? Because NBC has run the numbers and knows that 1.) Community has the most rabidly loyal fanbase of any show on network tv, and 2.) that said fanbase is largely watching on Tivo and Hulu. They're not stupid. They know the numbers are there and just not reflected in Neilson ratings. Community viewers aren't watching during the timeslot and even if they are, they are more likely than any other fanbase to follow it to Fridays. It's a sensible decision. They need Thursday night to see if whatever new shows they've got can build an audience.

In that light, though, firing Dan Harmon doesn't make sense for NBC. They know it will just piss off the fans they were hoping to move to a new timeslot. Moreover, NBC likes this show. Say what you will but they've been trying to promote it to an audience that remains steadfastly small and cultish for years now and still haven't cancelled it and it's not just because we geeks keep clamoring about it on the interwebs. NBC has an odd and admirable sense of pride in what they put out there, even as they continue to slide into last place, and their comedies are generally the smartest and most daring on tv. They know that Dan Harmon is what makes Community what it is, and they know that the rabidly loyal fanbase knows this.

I don't think the problem is that Harmon is an asshole boss (or maybe, well, he kind of is, even by his own admission, but he's wise enough to hire people who work well with him now.) The problem, as I understand it, is that he's a pain-in-the-ass employee. With the fourth season order, Sony already had enough to syndicate it, and in fact had already gotten a form of syndication with Comedy Central (which is nice, but not exactly what you're looking for, like with TBS or TNT or FOX.) Basically, I think Sony had been dealing with Harmon for years while he remained barely viable for them while fighting them every day, and finally figured they'd gotten what they needed from him and let him go.

I think it was a bad, horrible, awful decision. I've been following Megan Ganz's Twitter feed the last few days, and while she remains loyal to Harmon, she's also not jumping ship herself. It seems she's waiting for news from Sony, and I hope they keep her on. She spent the last several seasons basically co-writing with Harmon. The series can potentially survive with her still on board, and it seems clear that she's not abandoning it, loyal though she is to Dan's original vision.

On that subject: The writers' room and auteur theory. Some shows have functional writers' rooms, some don't. David E. Kelly is notorious for making no use of his room at all, giving them nothing to do and no experience, and writing everything himself on legal pads. The writers, if anything, got to transcribe. Sorkin's process has been explained above, and is a few margins more inclusive than that, but nor much. Something like The Office, however was (is?) highly collaborative, to the point of having writers like Greg Daniels, Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak as supporting characters in the show itself.

Community, like 30 Rock, is a combination of the two. 30 Rock is Tina Fey's baby, and Community is Harmon's, but they both rely heavily on fertile writers' rooms (which use to include Donald Glover, in 30 Rock's case.) A big instance on how this can effect things is that NBC forced Harmon, initially against his objections, to hire an equal amount of women as men in his room. Harmon has said that, seeing the difference it makes, he would never do it another way now. Anyway, Ganz was sort of his heir apparent on the show and I really, really hope Sony is smart enough to keep her on and maybe bring her in as an executive producer as well.

Anyway, onto single camera vs. 3-camera. Broadly, 3-camera is cheaper in the long run, if you've got a hit show, but is a much greater initial investment. You're giving up studio space for it, as a network, in many or most cases, and that is expensive real estate. You've also got many more staff on hand for every minute shot, and that money adds up fast, especially as shoots don't go as planned. Get a well-oiled machine going, and sure, you've got a steady revenue stream, but there's a reason that the stars of 3-camera shows throw their tantrums on set, and it's because that becomes a five-alarm emergency. Single camera shows can take that situation and wrap for the day until it's settled, if they aren't too behind in their production schedule.

(I said I'd get around to how television production is presented on tv, well, it's always 3-camera shows they're talking about. Those are the ones where the network is in the same building and can push more immediate influence. You're on their schedule there, in their space. The production company has much less leeway on day-to-day matters.)

3-camera shows are also much more difficult to write and direct. You're basically talking about a weekly play, with vaudevillian aspects and a proscenium, which can move in for smaller moments but not rely upon them. As a modern example of the best work in this, see how Simms made it work on Newsradio, but in general one can't accomplish the same sorts of things that one can in single camera.

There was a lot that went into this, and we are all deluded if we pretend that the people involved in making these decisions are simply philistines who don't like and understand the show they are producing or purchasing as much as we do. I adore this show, want what is best for it, hate Sony for firing Dan Harmon, everything. And I know that Norm MacDonald got fired from Weekend Update just because of a call from Dan Ohlmeyer, over the objections of those working on SNL at the time, but this feels different. This feels like Sony waited for NBC to confirm the order so that they could get rid of a guy they were tired of fighting with.

Oh, and Chevy Chase is a crank who is lucky as hell to have this show and who has far less industry clout than Harmon, which he knows very well. Whatever his beef was, it had absolutely zero to do with this decision.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:51 PM on May 20, 2012 [182 favorites]


I dunno, it seems like NBC is all but ceding Thursdays. All their fall freshman shows debut on Monday through Wednesday, and I believe they said at the upfronts that their hope was to build momentum early in the week coming off their strong Sunday football numbers. Thursdays 8-10 will be the same old: 30 Rock, Up All Night, The Office, Parks & Rec. And the legendary 10 o'clock slot, previous home of titans and recent launching pad for various failed efforts, will now be filled by Rock Center, the show that pulls in 0.6s and 0.7s in 18-49, and which gets beaten badly in total viewers by even reruns.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:26 PM on May 20, 2012


Why Dan Harmon’s firing from Community is just the latest shot in an increasingly familiar showrunner-vs.-network battle
posted by zombieflanders at 10:52 AM on May 21, 2012


Someone way above linked Ken Levine's blog. He has written for shows like MASH, Cheers, Frasier and lots more. I read his stuff religiously, although he's had little (and less positive) to say about Community over the last few years. Anyway, here's his take on Harmon's sacking.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:14 PM on May 21, 2012


> I don't think the problem is that Harmon is an asshole boss (or maybe, well, he kind of is, even by his own admission, but he's wise enough to hire people who work well with him now.) The problem, as I understand it, is that he's a pain-in-the-ass employee. With the fourth season order, Sony already had enough to syndicate it, and in fact had already gotten a form of syndication with Comedy Central (which is nice, but not exactly what you're looking for, like with TBS or TNT or FOX.) Basically, I think Sony had been dealing with Harmon for years while he remained barely viable for them while fighting them every day, and finally figured they'd gotten what they needed from him and let him go.

Navelgazer, you've reminded me of something I found confusing, and now find even more so since you've reminded me of the division between production company and network:

Many are seeing this upcoming fourth season as Community's swan song. Many are saying it's just so they can get enough episodes to syndicate, and then after that they'll take it apart. But if that's true, it doesn't seem like Sony would go through all the trouble of hiring new showrunners just to produce only 13 extra episodes. It seems like they'd just grit their teeth and keep the guy who made the first 71.

So I suspect that Sony thinks there's at least some chance that the show could survive past the next 13 episodes, otherwise they wouldn't go through this trouble. Unless they really don't like Dan Harmon and want to make it personal.

Yet if you're right in guessing that NBC wanted Harmon to stay on, then Sony has done the one thing that will make renewal less likely in NBC's eyes. This is some weird game theory shit.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:39 PM on May 21, 2012


Thanks for the big knowledge-bomb, navelgazer.

They're not stupid. They know the numbers are there and just not reflected in Neilson ratings.

I've always wondered about this. Why can't NBC (or at least NBC Thursday nights) become the network to just ignore Nielson altogether? It would seem that they have the audience -- young, Internet savvy, double-income -- that advertisers want. Couldn't they sell ad space based on that alone?
posted by roll truck roll at 12:50 PM on May 21, 2012


yellowbinder: "Anyway, here's his take on Harmon's sacking."

Ugh, reading the comments on that post there was mention of "The John Larroquette Show," which reminded me of how badly that show was fucked up after the low rating of the first season. Too bad there was nothing like FX around at the time.
posted by the_artificer at 1:06 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found the first three episodes of The John Larroquette Show on YouTube the other day. God, I loved that show. And season-by-season that is an exercise in watching network interference take a unique show and turn it into pap.
posted by crossoverman at 2:34 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


But if that's true, it doesn't seem like Sony would go through all the trouble of hiring new showrunners just to produce only 13 extra episodes.

71 is too few episodes for stripped syndication, but 84 is close enough to the required 88 that they can probably work with it.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:59 PM on May 21, 2012


This is interesting and potentially encouraging: New Community Writers Meeting with Current Writers to Talk About Staying.
posted by yasaman at 5:16 PM on May 21, 2012


It's too late in the staffing season to hire new writers -- pretty much everybody is staffed up by now, or at least very close to it. And if they were even thinking about finding new writers for the show, maybe making offers to people they know and trust and who didn't find something yet (which is a rapidly diminishing pool), the first step would be to meet with each writer currently on the show to figure out who they click with and who will work with what they're trying to do.

Getting a job on a television show, after a certain point, is as much about personality and meshing with the showrunners and do you like the same food? and what about movies? as it is about how great a writer you are. After a certain point, everyone is a great writer. A lot of the job is "Do I want to be stuck in a room with this person for 18 hours a day for 9 months?" and "Who will smell the least at 2AM when we're stuck on the second act break?"

Television writing is a marathon, you guys.
posted by incessant at 10:26 PM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, but these meetings are about the new showrunners proving themselves to Megan Ganz, believe me. This is a fully unique situation, everyone is worried, and Ganz has the most personal stake left.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:53 PM on May 21, 2012


And Ganz apparently had her meeting today, and was going into it with good faith, it seems. No word yet on how it went.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:21 PM on May 22, 2012


Please keep Megan Ganz on, guys. Please.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on May 22, 2012


Shit, y'all got me all excited about Moral Orel and the spoileriffic Wikipedia page makes the third season sound like fucking Deadwood or something:

The third and final season of the show was structured as a massive, interconnecting, thirteen-part story dealing with the events leading up to and during the camping trip, and their long-reaching implications.

Sounds great. I liked a couple of the early episodes a lot but never saw the rest, so am sad that Netflix only has the first season. Guess I'll have to watch shitty rips on YouTube.
posted by mediareport at 4:33 PM on May 22, 2012


Part of the problem is that we seem to have designed TV shows to be unsustainable. I mean, traditional sitcoms (three cameras, studio audience) sound like they're plush gigs, but the single-camera comedies and hour-long dramas we know and love are hard, hard work, and I think we're spoiled to get 23 episodes in a season when the standard for the UK is something between six and twelve. Unless you're Aaron Sorkin, you can't write two dozen scripts per year. Which means you need other writers to collaborate with, and that's where sparks fly if you're dealing with someone who doesn't collaborate well.

I'm starting to think we should have twice as many shows and half as many episodes. If we had shorter seasons, I think people would be more patient with the Dan Harmons of the world, because TV shows would feel less like full-time jobs and more like movie shoots. It'd mean that Community wouldn't need a room full of writers, but then all those writers could be off developing their own shows.


This is something I've been thinking a bunch about lately. The model in which most television entertainment is delivered in numerous "seasons" of 22ish episodes each with a new ep most weeks and a hiatus or two timed to line everything up with sweeps time is a pretty arbitrary form of storytelling we cling to largely for commercial reasons and out of historical inertia. There are plenty of great stories to be told that don't work that way, but we largely don't get to see them on TV. If anything, this affects comedies more than other genres: bad pacing can turn a great drama into a so-so one, but comedy has no tolerance for timing errors.

Take Fawlty Towers for example. The show is widely regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and it's only twelve half-hour episodes. Cleese has said that each episode took six weeks to write and the second season aired a whole three-and-a-half years after the first. It's a fantastic series, but we don't really bother to attempt stuff like that here in the US. I'm not talking about the dry wit and other US/UK comedy differences here, but rather the basic model of the production. Shows aren't really considered successes unless they run for years and go into syndication and no one is going to spend big bucks to promote a season that's shorter than some sporting events. Twelve episodes was just about the perfect length for Fawlty: ending strong instead of tired while accomplishing what it set out to do. Even a single year's 22-episode season would be unthinkable for the show, and American network execs aren't exactly out shopping for comedies that won't last a season.

Just as some stories are told best in haiku while others beg for epic novels, there are plenty of great stories to be told on television that demand different formats. But we don't get to see those kinds of shows, not here.
posted by zachlipton at 5:28 PM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Guess I'll have to watch shitty rips on YouTube.

No more complaining from you EVER about the quality of television if you aren't willing to find a legal way to watch it then.
posted by incessant at 5:45 PM on May 22, 2012


Whatever; they're all on Hulu. But yeah, if they weren't, and also weren't licensed on Netflix, I'd have no problem illegally watching a dead show years after it had died.
posted by mediareport at 6:57 PM on May 22, 2012


You all got me curious to check it out, but that Hulu page is just full of links to an Adult Swim page, which only seems to have five real episodes on it. Am I reading it wrongly?
posted by nobody at 7:33 PM on May 22, 2012


I'd have no problem illegally watching a dead show years after it had died.

You will get the kind of content you pay for.
posted by incessant at 8:49 PM on May 22, 2012


*salutes*
posted by mediareport at 9:21 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


that Hulu page is just full of links to an Adult Swim page, which only seems to have five real episodes on it

You're right; I didn't notice because I started on the season 2 stuff. Comedy Central does that a lot - "expires" shows for no good reason. Oh well, they'll probably come around again. Maybe I won't even forget about the show this time.
posted by mediareport at 9:33 PM on May 22, 2012


You will get the kind of content you pay for.

You know no one pays to get NBC, right?
posted by kenko at 8:08 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know no one pays to get NBC, right?

So that's why we got The Paul Reiser Show and Whitney.
posted by Talez at 8:37 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoa, so I see that my comment above got sidebarred and I'm honored and all that, but just to be clear, that was entirely conjecture. I don't actually have any secret knowledge or anything.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2012


Don't know if this has been shared yet, but it is awesome: About the time Dan Harmon wrote a letter to a 7-year-old who was scared by his movie "Monster House."
posted by jbickers at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


One more link of beanplating
posted by stratastar at 9:09 PM on May 23, 2012


That's a great link, jbickers. Thanks for sharing!
posted by brundlefly at 9:48 PM on May 23, 2012


Yerg. I clicked on that beanplating link. It flashed an article on Harmon, then tried to send me somewhere else and my virus software screamed.
posted by Atreides at 6:56 AM on May 24, 2012


Cleese has said that each episode took six weeks to write and the second season aired a whole three-and-a-half years after the first. It's a fantastic series, but we don't really bother to attempt stuff like that here in the US. I'm not talking about the dry wit and other US/UK comedy differences here, but rather the basic model of the production. Shows aren't really considered successes unless they run for years and go into syndication and no one is going to spend big bucks to promote a season that's shorter than some sporting events.

Fawlty Towers was a very long time ago, though, and it benefitted from having a name behind it (just like Ab Fab, which comes back whenever Jennifer Saunders feels like making more). It's true that our comedy production is quite different here, though. I see US shows as analogous to long-running drama series over here more than comedies - a new series of Casualty, for example, will be on every year. The other differences, as you may know, are that British comedies are generally written by one or two people (the exception is My Family which was created by a US writer and modelled after the US method of production - it returns annually for 20+ ep series) and that syndication is less of a thing here - some shows will be repeated on 'archive' channels like GOLD or Dave (which currently shows Red Dwarf, I think) some shows will get repeated on their original channels, and some more 'cult' shows won't get repeated at all.

We also don't have the concept of the 'season' - the peak time for new shows to come back is the autumn, but it can happen at any time, really. The Apprentice here used to start in January, then in 2010 it was shown later due to regulations around TV programming during an election (Alan Sugar was involved with the Labour Party) and now it just starts in April every year instead. (It#s a hugely successful show still here, with a lot of press attention.) We are just getting 2 Broke Girls and ...Apartment 23 here, and some US hits don't cross the Atlantic (Parks and Rec, Community, NewsRadio), some are shown on minority channels (Seinfeld, 30 Rock) and some, like Fresh Prince of Bel Air, become more successful here than on the home turf./
posted by mippy at 7:12 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I've never seen Fawlty Towers so I don't know how well; it would have worked int he American model, but I think here we're just used to short series. I've just looked up a few series that I remember always being on as a kid, and was surprised that they were indeed six to 12 episodes a pop.
posted by mippy at 7:15 AM on May 24, 2012


All else aside you should go see Fawlty Towers right away.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:31 AM on May 24, 2012


Just don't mention the war!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:32 AM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I speak English very good. I learned it from a book.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:35 AM on May 24, 2012


The clips I've seen didn't do it for me. Perhaps because the same scenes have been overexposed or overquoted, as with Monty Python? The Manuel character seems pretty dated now as well, a bit Mind Your Language.
posted by mippy at 7:52 AM on May 24, 2012


Talking points memo to the cast leaked. I would just like to say that I was not involved in this decision in any way but I am looking forward to new episodes in September. /facepalm
posted by yellowbinder at 8:07 AM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sounds like they're looking forward to stuff.
posted by Trochanter at 8:20 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know anything more about this thread but I'm looking forward to new comments from other Mefites.
posted by incessant at 9:26 AM on May 24, 2012


I always thought Community was a forward looking show.
posted by Atreides at 11:13 AM on May 24, 2012


Every one of the dean's costumes in a single poster.
posted by bonehead at 11:17 AM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Looks like Megan is staying!
posted by jbickers at 11:32 AM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wonder if the new showrunners will fulfill the promise made in the first minute of Season 3. That didn't really pan out.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:53 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suppose with Megan staying, I can say that I am looking forward will wait with less trepidation for the fall.
posted by Atreides at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2012


Watching Spaced. I made a list of similarities:

1) They are TV shows.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:23 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


2) They are both awesome.
posted by Mezentian at 5:11 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well. No. Spaced is not.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:58 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can I post some heresy and suggest that Community might even be better without Dan Harmon?

Before I even say why, I do think it was kind of crappy the way Sony fired him (as I understand how it went down), Dan's a creative guy and I hope for the best for him and his future, and I love what he has acheived with Community.

Without making it personal about how it's made, then, and just thinking about the results of what Community has been...

Community has been weak, post-Abed-Christmas. The whole evil-Pierce thing was just awkward, Ken Cheong's character doesn't support the amount of focus he's being given, and the whole reference-humour has become a formulaic shadow of what it was.

The last point being the real key. Consider the first paint-ball episode in season one. There was the paint ball narrative first, and then references came second. That gave the writers room to play, with it: A little 28 Days Later when Jeff wakes up in his car, a Warriors reference when the roller skaters come in, Chow Yun Fat movies when Chang enters the study room, Die Hard when Jeff faces the dean... The show only veered into references when the moment was right, and without being tied to any particular structure, the characters were free to breathe and develop, so we could have a scene like Britta and Jeff in the study room just being the characters from their own show and not following the template of another show.

Now compare that to the recent Law & Order show. A whole show structured around making references to one specific show, right down to altering the title credits. Every reference you can see coming a mile away because you know exactly what they are referencing. The characters can't really do much to further their own arcs because they have to be like characters in another show.

There are other problems too, like Shirley being underused. She could provide commentary from her point of view as a married and experienced woman on the shallow histrionics of the young and single, but she's reduced to baking and "that's nice." Or Abed being over-used. Want the show to have a holodeck-format? Abed's being delusional again...

I'm not saying that firing Dan Harmon is a solution for these issues, or that the show will necessarily be better. I think the firing had way more to do with back stage politics than on stage creative output.

What I am saying, though, is that as much as I love the show and respect Dan Harmon, there were serious structural flaws that have made all of season 3 kind of meh. Not terrible, still way more watchable and fun than most other shows. But way less than what it was for most of seasons 1 and 2.

Dan Harmon should be given all the credit for bringing an awesome show into the world.

But maybe, just maybe, making something and continuing something are different skills.
posted by ebisudave at 9:17 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


To be fair, the Britta and Jeff scene was, while a degree of outgrowth from an running theme, also a direct nod to the trope of couples spontaneously hooking up in action movies.

I would disagree to a point that while you expected what was to come, how it was delivered was original to the characters. Further, the toss ups served as vehicles for character development. If the show survives, even succeeds, it will be due to the very rich fabric woven by Harmon.
posted by Atreides at 3:28 PM on June 6, 2012


And now we can play Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne.
posted by jeather at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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